In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Fanwood Memorial Library was a beacon of light for residents of Fanwood and nearby communities. Despite its limited space and somewhat antiquated infrastructure, the library was a safe haven for well over 5,000 people from noon on Tuesday, October 30 through Tuesday, November 6. The natural gas powered generator and functioning link to the internet allowed people to stay warm, get online and charge their phones and other devices from the many power strips strung off of every one of the library’s small number of outlets.
Folks from Fanwood, Scotch Plains and other towns around the region and state came in to use the library for a vast array of essential needs ranging from applying to college, doing homework, working, applying for work, reviewing contracts, contacting FEMA, business and personal emails, staying in touch with family and neighbors and more.
Perhaps, most importantly, people were helping people – exchanging tips about how to cope during the storm, where to get gas, milk, ice – when power might be restored, helping each other with computer issues and problem solving, making sure those in need were looked after – neighbor to neighbor, Fanwood and beyond.
With constant updates from the Mayor Colleen Mahr and Police Chief Richard Trigo, residents were well informed about all storm related issues.
Mayor Mahr commented, “I cannot say how proud I am of our community. The library staffers have kept this place open since day one of Superstorm Sandy. It’s incredible. We have staff and volunteers who have left their own damaged homes to come and help serve. It is times like this that show the mettle of a community and I couldn’t be more proud of Fanwoodians.”
Dan Weiss, Fanwood library director, echoed that special thanks are due to all of the dedicated, hardworking library staff and some volunteers who kept things running smoothly and effectively. Library pages Kevin Fleck and Josh Axlerod and volunteers Matt Fleck and Katherine DeMarco spent long hours helping people do everything from powering devices to getting internet access, troubleshooting computer issues and more. Extra special kudos go to staff member Nancy Kipping who, especially during the first few days following the hurricane, served long hours efficiently managing the crowds and keeping everything running smoothly. Thanks also go to Scotch Plains resident Colleen Gialanella who set up outside the library on Friday to warm residents by passing out free hot chocolate. Many other Fanwood Borough employees also gave tirelessly in a variety of capacities throughout the crisis to make sure residents had what they needed to be safe and comfortable.
Over the last week, under severe conditions, it was clear to see beyond the books, magazines and programs, the true enduring and essential value that the Fanwood Memorial Library provides to the community it serves.