Lessons Learned from a Drive Through

By Su Epstein

Saxton B. Little Library,  Columbia CT

There is something about the sound of shattering glass that represents all things ‘not good.’  Twice in my career I’ve heard this sound in a Library, I am truly hoping not to have a third.

The last time that horrible sound spun its web around me was a mild day last spring.  It was a Thursday, but not unlike any other, around 3:40 in the afternoon.  The afterschool crowd was in and settled, our later afternoon elderly doing their end of day pass through.  I was gearing up to leave early and cash in some comp time for some much needed rest.su1

The crash sounded at first like a bookcase had toppled and my heart sank, as I heard my Children’s Librarian cry out, “Oh my God, Oh my God.”  We all ran, and I’m sure I was not the only one with a growing sense of fear.

Our library is very small.  In total it sits on a 4800 s.f. footprint that consists of three rooms.  So it took mere seconds to reach the main library but several seconds for my brain to process what I was seeing.

One of our elderly patrons had driven down our walkway, through two metal book drops and a window to arrive literally seven feet into the library.  Realizing what he’d done, he then backed out.

In front of the window had been a four drawer cd holder.  Thousands of discs had flown like fall leaves throughout the room.  Later, we would marvel that not one had broken.   The cd drawers appeared a bit off kilter.  The car had also clipped a six foot magazine shelf.  It had tipped, causing magazines to waterfall and its hanging shelves to swing.  Our television and stand had, prevented the bookcase from crashing down on the periodical seating.  What faired worst was the side of the building that then sported a large whole.

We were lucky.  Thankfully, no one, not even the driver was hurt.  Although many were shaken, no one had been seated or standing in that particular area.  911 was called immediately and with no one harmed, most of us, myself included, mulled around in a stunned state of disbelief.

It was later, after police, fire department, ambulance and television crew had left that several things dawned on us.   First, and foremost, we should have left the building until we knew it was structurally sound.  We didn’t and no one instructed us to.  Fortunately, it wasn’t an issue, but it was a line immediately added to our disaster plan and an idea I’ve tried to drum into my brain.

Second, the disaster plan!  We have one, not that it included a car drive through, but we didn’t even think of our plan at the time.  What was really driven home by this event was that a copy of the plan should be located not only outside of the building, but somewhere local.  I had followed all good wisdom and have a copy of our plan at home — home, which is forty minutes away from the library.  If we had needed to vacate the library and take immediate action, the carefully constructed do lists and phone numbers in our disaster plan would have done me no good at home.  After this event, a copy of our disaster plan lives in a safe spot in our neighboring town hall and their plan lives in a cozy spot next to ours in the Library.

The last lesson learned from this event was to trust in our insurance company.  Since it was a town building and clearly the driver’s fault, it was suggested to simply let the driver’s insurance handle the claim and avoid the library’s insurance.  The driver’s company settled with the driver and the town within weeks, but after 3 months, they had still not settled for the damages within the library.  After filing complaints with the insurance commission and seeking legal counsel, our insurance company suggested we file the claim with them and allow them to seek reimbursement from the driver’s insurance carrier.

Our insurance required only documentation of our loss.  The driver’s insurance was insisting upon sales receipts from the damaged items.  Unfortunately it had been over eight years and two director’s ago when the furniture had been purchased and no one knew where or when those purchases had been made.  While sure, the receipts were in file boxes in the building, who knew which boxes?  After providing photos of the accident and replacement list, our insurance company issued a check and our part in the process was completed.

Now, our furniture replaced, our window and wall repaired and we continue on.  Though we all wish that the jokes about putting in a drive through would come to an end,  I simply say, “do you want fries with that?”

One Response to “Lessons Learned from a Drive Through”

  1. Lydia Kegler says:

    Thanks for sharing a great story and the lessons learned. So glad no one was injured.

    Having survived a flood that wrecked our library, I can only underscore how important it is to have an updated insurance policy that truly covers the contents of the library. Although we received the full policy settlement ($21,000), it did not begin to cover the the $91,000 in lost equipment, books and furniture I itemized for the claim.

    By the way, did anyone notice that the cover story of the “Science News” magazine (just to the right of the window) was entitled “Blowout?”

    Lydia Kegler
    Columbia County Traveling Library
    Bloomsburg, PA