It has been a difficult time for Brooks Free Library, the municipal library in Harwich Center, with technical problems that have nearly crippled the institution over the past couple of weeks. With failed lighting circuits, the library has had to shut off access to the building at a time of year when that library is the center of this community, serving more patrons that other libraries of similar size on the Cape. It is the oversight of that library which makes it so popular. Library Director Ginny Hewitt does a tremendous job on a daily basis there.
But when faced with a challenge, Hewitt always rises to the occasion. This is not the first time this library has suffered a technical glitch. This is the second time in less than a year the insulated-gate bipolar transistor controlling the flow of electricity to the lighting systems has failed. The first time the library was stymied for nine days and cost $12,250 to resolve the issue. This time the library had to provide limited access to patrons for two weeks and it cost $10,852 to remedy the situation. Given the reoccurring problems there is the potential for this failure to happen again.
Hewitt was quick, last October when it happened, to shape a plan to provide continued service to the patrons. She put in place a “Library in the Lobby” service that allowed patrons to order books and other library items and pick them up in the back lobby of the building. The public was still being served, though the process was trying for the staff. Library programs were set up in other facilities, such as the community center. Over the past two weeks the Library in the Lobby was in operation again and Hewitt made additional accommodations for access to the children's library section. Hewitt said with the makeshift operations Brooks Free Library was still providing customer service comparable in numbers to other libraries on the Cape of similar size. Hewitt and her staff should be commended for their creativity in accommodating patrons.
But the town must take steps to prevent these mysterious and costly shutdowns. Facilities Maintenance Manager Sean Libby has been praised for his response when these technical glitches arise. There are technical complications, whether it be inconsistent power fluctuations common to the Cape, which these inverter boards cannot withstand, or the type of system in use is just inadequate.
Libby has spoken to the need for an electric generator system for the library, so when the power goes out the generator goes on and lights and the emergency lighting system glow in times of need. The town's capital plan has the purchase of a generator for the library scheduled for FY19. The town should take immediate steps to move that purchase forward and if a special town meeting is called this fall that purchase should be made and certainly no later than next May's town meeting. The cost to the town is too great to do otherwise. We do not know how often the inverter board will continue to fail in the future and that could get very expensive.
Brook Free Library is the center of knowledge attainment in this community, and Harwich residents should also never be denied access. Purchase the generator.