Gainesville library flooded with patrons seeking power, internet
Mark Clyburn, left, and his wife, Allison, sit at a temporary desk Wednesday as they work and charge their electronic devices at the Gainesville branch of the Hall County Library System. With many areas without electricity since Monday, Hall County residents have flocked to the library to charge electronics and work. The couple walked to the library from their home, a mile and a half away, after their cars were trapped by fallen trees and live wires. - photo by David Barnes

Mark and Allison Clyburn were without power at their Stillwood Drive home, where a tree, power lines and a pole littered their driveway and blocked them from leaving by car.

The couple made the mile and a half walk to the Hall County Library System’s downtown Gainesville branch Wednesday morning hoping it had power so they could charge up their devices and get on the internet for work and reaching out to family.

They were part of a large contingent taking advantage of the library’s charging capabilities and high-speed Wi-Fi around lunchtime Wednesday as thousands still were waiting for the lights to come back on after Tropical Storm Irma.

Lisa MacKinney, director of the library system, said the crowd was about four times larger than usual in the middle of the day Wednesday.

The downtown and Blackshear Place branches were fully up and running, while Spout Springs didn’t have internet but staff could check books in and out and offer power for patrons to charge their devices.

The North Hall and Murrayville library branches remained closed Wednesday. Employees at those branches had the chance to work at one of the open branches or take a vacation day.
MacKinney said many of those at the libraries didn’t have power, including two-thirds of her staff. But none of the library staff from any of the open branches called in saying they couldn’t make it to work.

The libraries have served some evacuees of Irma, as well, allowing them to connect with their families.

“It is really nice for people to remember how critical a library can be in times of need,” MacKinney said.

The Clyburns were grateful to be able to get out of their home and stay in touch with family in Alabama.

“They want to know that everything is all right,” Allison Clyburn said. “It’s nice to stay connected.”

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