It’s cold but sunny in Des Moines today and I have to confess I love an Iowa day like this. The sun is blindingly bright off the new snow and if you don’t have to be outside too much, it seems downright cheery. I’m also breathing a huge sigh of relief. There were blizzard warnings last night and it sounded like the roof might blow off the house. In the end it was an all-bark, no-bite kind of blizzard with very little snow accumulation.
But, I was worried that I alone would have to make the decision of whether or not to close the library and it’s not a decision I would ever choose to make independently. If I were to announce the library would be closed, I’d take a risk that the snow would stop abruptly and everyone would question my decision. If I waited too long and staff ended up sleeping at the library (it has happened), I’d look like I don’t really care much about our employees. So, I’m grateful that I dodged having the make the call this time.
When I first began working for the Des Moines Public Library in 1979, the library seemed to never close for weather. Rumor had it that our library director would close the library only if Younkers department store closed. That didn’t mean a mall store; that meant the big downtown Younkers store. We were thrilled when after an ice storm that knocked out power for several days we were allowed to close each day at sundown. The card catalog couldn’t do what a computer can but it didn’t require electricity and we carried flashlights.
Years later, there was an enormous snowstorm and authorities from the police chief to the director of public safety were advising businesses to close and send their employees home. We had a new director, and to our utter amazement, she decided to close the library early. One librarian, riding home on the Ingersoll bus, struck up a conversation with her seat mate. She told her she worked at the public library and that it had closed because of the snowstorm. Her seatmate was stunned; she had worked at Younkers and their rule was that the store didn’t close unless the library closed. So, that explained it! Did they even know they were engaged in a standoff?
Our new director, Greg Heid, who begins next month, is coming from Georgia but he’s a Minnesota native so he’s definitely not a weather wimp. Will he have a benchmark like the Younkers test? I for one am hoping for an easy, mild winter. But I’m also sort of hoping if we should have a show-stopping blizzard, it will be after Greg’s January 12 start date so he can make the call.