A COUPLE OF MINUTES past 8 p.m., five days after the Halloween storm had blacked out much of Boxborough, Maureen Strapko ushered out the last patron from the town library and locked the doors for the night. While most of that northwest-of-Boston community – like much of the region – remained in the dark, the Sargent Memorial Library had been welcoming the biggest crowds of Strapko’s decade-long tenure. That’s mainly because restoring power to key town facilities like the fire and police departments had also turned it back on at the nearby library.
Across the week, the place had become a refuge for weary residents needing to warm up, use the bathroom, and recharge their laptop batteries. Strapko had come to know the precise location of each of the library’s 48 electrical outlets in the public areas and had even granted needy patrons access to the outlets in the staff areas. Since the storm, she had opened the library early and closed it late, seeing the protracted power outage as an opportunity to put into action her belief that libraries should be vibrant community centers, not morgues where people are ssshhhh’d into submission.