Were this a real emergency…

What Wednesday at Preus Library Might Have Looked Like.

On Wednesday, September 23rd, Preus Library (where I work) took a trip back to the good ol’ days of pre-electricity courtesy of a blown transformer. It made for an interesting day.

The transformer (a huge eight-foot monster that might have been original to the building) blew at 7:45am, just about 5 minutes after I walked in the door. By 10am, we figured it was a bad situation and yeah, it was.  A back-up generator ‘might’ arrive by noon.  Turns out, it didn’t arrive until about 3:30pm and wasn’t up and running until 7:30pm.

We also learned a few things that were overlooked in our Emergency Planning procedures:

Relocation of the Help Desk was easy and difficult.

  • Upside – We moved into my Olin office and forwarded the phones.  This wasn’t an issue, except for having just one phone line and only one computer available.  It appears that when the Library isn’t open, not nearly as many people visit us.  After 5pm, we were able to relocate into a larger classroom with a phone line.  Easy.
  • Downside – My office is on the 3rd floor.  Heat rises and when we discovered the air conditioning was out, that made it damn uncomfortable.

Flashlights?  Who needs flashlights?

  • Two flashlights for the entire library.  One without batteries.  I navigated in a very dark building (there’s no windows to where our new offices are) via the light taken from my bike.

Silence is beautiful.

  • When the power went out, so did the ventilation system.  It was amazing just how quiet and peaceful it became in a very short period of time.  There was no noise, except what we made on our own.  I spent a good two hours sitting by a window, poaching Internet off Olin next door and getting a ton of work done.  It was fantastic.

The Library really is the hub of information.

  • In our case, this was true.  Before yesterday, all Internet traffic was routed through switches housed in the Library basement.  These were on battery backup, but not hooked up to a generator as they were deemed ‘not essential’.  After two hours, the battery backup failed.  Thus, the Internet failed.  Normally, when the network goes down, the Sys Admins are alerted via a message.  When the Library went down, there was no message, because it all routed through the Library.  That got fixed quick, but made for an interesting morning.

Today, after the power had been restored, was a normal day … in a sauna.  The generator wasn’t powerful enough to run the chillers so we had air moving, but nothing was cold.  Okay, that’s fine, people have suffered through a lot worse.  But it did have a tendency to make people tired and cranky. We will have to put up with four weeks of that until the new transformer is in place.

Around 1:30pm, I learned that they were going to have a planned power outage at 5pm.  Turned out that one of the belts on the generator had broken and the other was about to go.  Well, better to know this one was coming.  So I stuck around after work.  It was kind of weird, seeing the power go out.  It hit some lights first, then the rest.  A lot like stadium lights being turned off.  Then it got real quiet once the ventilation shut down.

Kinda a cool thing.  When your expecting it, that is.