The Polar Punch Pastes Our Public Library

What a difference a week can make. On February 10, Allison Finch, of AccuWeather wrote, “In a remarkable weather turnabout, [in the Northeast] temperatures throttled up from the lowest levels of the year to late-March levels within a week.”

She was absolutely right. Here was the temperature at our house on Friday, February 3.

And here it was one week later on Friday, February 10.

A case of weather whiplash, that’s for sure.

Unfortunately for our town’s library, the polar punch did its dirty work before it left the state on Sunday, February 5.

In the Kennebec Journal,  Richard Fortin, the library’s director, explained what the librarians found on February 4: “We came in around 8:30 on Saturday morning and the building smelled like heating oil. We went into the furnace room and basically found that the oil filters and oil lines were encased in ice. There’s a fresh air vent in that room, and that extreme cold just came in and froze those lines.”

Frozen lines, of course, spell trouble.

“[Fortin] said this caused the oil’s consistency to resemble sludge or mud, so it was not able to get through the lines. This backed up the system and caused a major oil leak.

“The entire boiler was basically encapsulated with oil,” said Fortin. “It leaked through the cast iron. And the nozzle was spraying oil into the room.”

Not good. Not good at all. The library was closed for a whole week as the problem was dealt with. On Wednesday, The Maine Department of Environmental Protection “determined…the harmful materials in the air had dissipated enough that the library [was] safe.”

But the library still reeked of oil—the children’s section smelled especially bad—and there was major rearranging to do so that the library could open today, Monday, February 13.

Most of the books I read come from the library, and this polar punch incident at the library made me realize, yet again, how much I love my library and how much it gives to me. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the library is a cultural mainstay for me. Because of the library and its interlibrary loan system, the world of story and ideas is completely open to me. I don’t have to worry about cost or bookshelf space.

Whenever I go to events and sign my own book, Library Lost, I always add “Love Your Library.”

I certainly do love mine. I am so glad it’s reopened.



The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

This murder mystery novel is as airy as a chocolate soufflé and just as delicious. At an upscale senior retirement village in England, four friends—Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron—meet weekly on Thursday to talk about unsolved crimes. Naturally murder strikes, not once but twice, and the sleuthing seniors sally forth to discover who the killer is.

There are several storylines that converge in a satisfying way. Two detectives, Chris and Donna, become involved in investigating the murders. Although Chris and Donna aren’t fools, the seniors are always several steps ahead of them.

Osman has a deft touch that snaps the story along but allows for character development, a must for me as a reader. And although The Thursday Murder Club could be categorized as a light read, the novel touches on many aspects of aging—physical and mental diminishment, loneliness, regret, and grief—that are not so light.

However, friendship and community provide solace and bring purpose as well as happiness to Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron.

There are two more books in the series—both on the bookcase in my living room—with another slated to be published in September 2023.

Thanks to Barbara at Thistles and Kiwis for bringing Richard Osman to my attention. One of the great joys of blogging is to be introduced to writers I’ve never heard of. The same is true for television shows, movies, and podcasts. I really enjoy getting suggestions.


101 thoughts on “The Polar Punch Pastes Our Public Library”

  1. This is COLD !!! I can’t imagine how it feels like ! Today we had 10C° and a lot of sun, it felt a bit like Spring, I had a short walk in my garden and I saw the bulbs are comming to life.

      1. I bet it was intense ! And yes, it is lovely to see Spring is nearby, we just had a few really springlike days.

  2. You’re right, Laurie, it sure turned around! Not really much better with so much snow and ice still around and undoubtedly more freezing temps in store, even if not that cold. How terrible for your library. I agree, public libraries are one of our greatest resources. Yours looks very inviting!

  3. Oh my. So unfortunate for the library. I wouldn’t feel comfortable spending any significant amount of time in a building that reeked of oil, and for sure, I wouldn’t want to put children in that situation.

    1. Absolutely! When my husband Clif returned from the library yesterday, he said there was no smell at all. So I think the hard work of clean-up has paid off. Soon, I think, the children’s section will be reopened.

  4. Oh my! What a drama that was. I’ve been a lover of libraries for about 73 of my 76 years. I’m glad yours is back in business again. Can’t imagine being without mine. Whenever moving to a new city, one of my first tasks is to get a library card.

    Crocuses, snowdrops, winter aconite, daffs, and iris reticulata are all blooming in my yard, 4-6 weeks early. I’m just waiting for winter to drop it’s other shoe, so to speak. It won’t be pretty!

    I recently read Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. It was quite different and most interesting! I’d recommend it. One of my most fave books ever is Time And Again by Jack Finney. Have you read it? What’s your favorite book ever?

    1. My goodness, your yard is abloom. Hope winter doesn’t return to spoil things. So glad our library is back in business. It is central to my life, and it sounds as though you feel the same way about libraries, no matter where you live. I will be adding Time and Again by Jack Finney to my TBR list. Thanks for the recommendation. As for a favorite book…I don’t have one. Instead, a list that includes A Wrinkle in Time, The Hobbit, Tuck Everlasting, Pride and Prejudice, Middle March, and The Great Gatsby. As you can see, my taste in books is eclectic. 😉

      1. I remember enjoying Time and Again.

        Our library is going to be closed for remodeling for two months. Very inconvenient, no book pick up (will have to go to a library 17 miles away if books come, and interlibrary loans, whose destination can’t be changed, will be SENT BACK!!)

        The community is in an uproar because the powers that be from way higher up and far away want to paint over a children’s mural and make everything beige and tasteful. Our wonderful head librarian quit over it!

        Our library is part of a statewide chain of rural and small town libraries. It’s been great for getting my hands on even obscure books that I want to read. Many of my friends have access only to small libraries that don’t do interlibrary loans.

        The old age mystery sounds good, I will order it.

      2. Well, darn about the library being closed for remodeling. Really hits home how vitally important a library is. And I don’t know what I would do without interlibrary loan. Hope you enjoy The Thursday Murder Club series.

  5. Oh, Laurie – what a story about the library. So glad they had the funds to get it taken care of. We have 5 or 6 libraries within easy driving range. This reminds me to count myself lucky, because there is always a stack of library books on my bedside table and I rely on that. And your comment about the cost AND the space of storing the books we read (if there were no libraries) is so accurate. Especially the space. I could never!

      1. They are all free and use the same card -AND I can return books to any library, no matter where I took them out. It’s quite the set-up. Plus I can renew and request books online. I have 2 libraries within a 5 minute drive from my home and 2 within a 5 minute drive from clients. And there are 2 more about 10 – 15 minutes away from my home. I count myself very lucky in that respect.

  6. I’m so glad your library is open again, Laurie. I used to use my local one a lot but these days I can never find anything I want to read there. Their budget is so small and they are compelled to spend a lot of it on books members of the public want them to order!
    What a jump in temperature and how confusing for your plants and wild animals!

    1. Fortunately, our little library is connected to a statewide interlibrary loan system that includes some big libraries. What a boon as it provides a huge selection of books that our small library could never offer.

  7. Oh my, I am so glad they’re getting the library back up and running. What an awful situation for them to deal with and come back from. I truly cannot imagine life without my library. I have no desire to stack books on shelves that I’ve read and won’t read again, and I love the ease of borrowing and returning books. Lately, I’ve been reading ebooks which is even easier. Here’s hoping the smell dissipates before long. Love the library!

      1. The great appeal of ebooks is to be able to go back and find something to read again- like if you forget the back story of a character you can just look them up and be reminded. And I love that. But even with that, I only ever read one or two ebooks. Just have to have my paper!

  8. Wow! That’s crazy! That’s never happened before? The temps that low aren’t that unusual near you, right? But maybe it was the cold then the warmer weather? I’m glad they got it cleaned up but I bet it was expensive, and probably not totally cleaned…did they have to replace the boiler?

    1. As far as I know, it’s never happened before. Actually, temps that low, -50 with the windchill—is unusual for us. No, it wasn’t the warm weather. It was the extreme cold that knocked the heating system out of whack. Not sure if the HVAC system needs to be replaced. That remains to be seen. The first choice is to fix the HVAC, with replacement as the second choice.

  9. Definitely weather whiplash! Phew that the library is back up and running…they’re community hubs. Must check out the Osman book…sounds just my cup of tea right now.

  10. Barbara inspired me to read Richard Osman too and so I was pleased when a friend lent me the second in the series. I was thus thrilled last night when another friend brought be the first and third in the series for me – a happy reading week lies ahead!

  11. So sorry to hear about your library Laurie, where would we all be without a library in the town or region?
    Paul is a big fan of Richard Osman’s books and it looks as if it is a very popular read generally.

  12. Sad news about your library, but I guess that sort of thing is a risk in your extreme climate. I used to be in charge of our local city’s library service (15 libraries in total) and we had our fair share of problems over the years, but thankfully I never encountered anything like the event you describe. Putting aside the boiler issue, is your library thriving? Here in the UK I fear for their future as budgets come under ever greater pressure, and because more and more people now act as if Internet is the answer to every cultural and informational need.

    1. I bet you saw your fair share of library problems. As for thriving…Yes, right now our library is thriving. It is one of the hubs of our small town—Winthrop, population 6,000. However, it has been under threat. Six or seven years ago, the town manager hated the notion of a public library and did his best to defund the library. While he wasn’t entirely successful, he manipulated the chair of the town council to shave $30,000 from the library’s budget just as it was celebrating the completion of a million-dollar addition. (I was on the board at the time, and the memory is still clear and sharp.) What a time! Fortunately, the town manager left a year or so later, and since then there hasn’t been any troubles. But, we can never be complacent about libraries. The same, it seems, is true for libraries in the U.K. Alas.

      1. Good to know your library survived, and is prospering today. Libraries are so important, but also badly misunderstood by some of those who are in a position to do them harm. We live in difficult times, made worse by the current economic crisis.

      2. I recognise what you’re saying from some of the stuff I’ve read/heard about the state of the US right now, but I still find this deeply shocking. Thankfully it doesn’t appear to be an issue here; in the UK the attitude is more cynical (“oh no, we don’t need libraries any more, they’re old fashioned and no longer relevant, you can get everything you need from the Internet and at no expense to the taxpayer”). It’s all very sad, isn’t it?

  13. How heartbreaking to have your library closed for an entire week! But isn’t it wonderful that they got the mess cleaned up so fast? I, too, am an avid library patron. I read a lot, but I don’t want to have stacks and stacks of books to move (if I ever decide where to go, ha!)

  14. Such said news about the damage to your library. Our library is also the hub of our small town. I cannot imagine not having it. When it was closed during the pandemic, it made a noticeable (and negative) difference. You are so right – we should never be complacent about libraries!

    1. Yes, indeed. Just listened to a podcast of the London Review of Books where Wallace Shawn was interviewed. He maintained that complacency in life—especially for those who are affluent—caused great harm. Terrific interview.

  15. I laughed a lot at that book, and believe me, I value a few laughs above most things. I didn’t find the solutions to the deaths satisfying, tho, Perhaps I read too many mysteries, and this one was so different. But I loved “Lolly Willowes,” which I learned about here, so thanks for that!

  16. What wacky weather! I’m glad that your library has reopened and that things are getting back to normal. Sheesh!

    I laughed so much while reading The Thursday Murder Club books – the characters are perfectly eccentric. I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

  17. I’m so glad books weren’t damaged because of your library’s problems. I wondered if they attacked the odor the same way we do with spilled diesel in a boat. Sure enough, one of the listed ways of getting rid of a fuel oil odor after the mess is cleaned up is white vinegar. Several shallow bowls of white vinegar will sweeten a boat’s air in only a few days, depending on how much was spilled. I’m sure there are commercial products, too, but vinegar will do the trick.

    Speaking of weather, one of my local meteorologists recently recommended this book, and I thought of you. It looks like one I’d like to read, too. I do love a good weather story, although I usually have focused on those concerned with hurricanes. I’ll bet your library could get it for you.

    1. Yes, very grateful the books weren’t damaged. Thanks for the book suggestion. I have read one of Cathie Pelletier’s books—The Weight of Winter—and liked it very much. I will add Northeaster to my TBR list.

  18. I’m glad the Library has re-opened and no worse damage done. You know I love my library too – I could never afford to buy all I read. I love Thursday Murder Club too!

  19. We too have had the mood swings of winter/not-winter this year. 70F predicted for today. We have been wearing T-shirts for gardening & may have our April chores done soon (the Mrs. Even spray painted the deck and fire-pit furniture, which is usually covered in snow in February).

    Ouch to the library’s oil tank. I understand that this is a common heating system in the North East. Another possible reason for electric heat sources (though those are vulnerable to outages during ice storms because of downed lines, which is an another reason for putting electric power under ground, though costly this is).

    I have never gotten into the murder mystery genre. My mother loves them and I have sat through numerous BBC series with her, usually scratching my head about why I did not read some history instead. Not a criticism of taste (I’m sure you read more history than I do, too), but puzzlement.


    1. Holy cats, 70! My, that is warm. Believe it or not, mysteries are not my genre of choice. That would be fantasy and literary fiction. But lately this old dog has been trying to learn new tricks, and I have been expanding my reading with book suggestions from my many blogging friends. Such fun! And what l have discovered is that good characters and good writing are what is important to me. After that, I am pretty open.

  20. Laurie, I’m glad your library reopened and did not sustain more damage than it did. A friend’s home here had the pipes freeze and much damage as a result. Today much of southern MA is expected to have record highs. Here along the coast that may or may not happen, we shall see.

  21. We’ve joined you in the weather whiplash and after two gorgeous springlike days we’re back to winter tomorrow. It’s amazing how fast they were able to reopen your library and libraries and all their great books should be celebrated every day! I love the Thursday Murder Club series (Steven Spielberg bought the film rights) and what a wonderful group of characters!!🙂

    1. Yes, so very grateful the library was only closed for a week. How I depend on it! I saw that Spielberg bought the film rights. For a television series. Anyway, I will watch it, but I bet it won’t be as good as the books.;)

  22. Omg Thursday Murder Club is the best. I’m in love with those books!

    And my kiddo in Maine was right there with ya in the weather whiplash. Rivals our Wisconsin swings!

      1. She did. She’s a Wisco girl so in the same breath that she was telling us about the -60° wind-chill on the island, she mentioned that she was on her way to a contra dance somewhere. As you do. You know, to keep warm. “Also, my car keeps stalling.” Yes, dear, you should definitely keep driving. 🤦

  23. I am so sorry about the library. It sounds as though it escaped major damage. I’m glad it’s open again. I loved the Thursday Murder Club, have read the two following and am waiting for the new one! They’ve all been great reads. I like the character differentiation and the fact that they all have their own skills and wisdom.

    1. Yes, very grateful that the library escaped major damage. I am on book 2 of The Thursday Murder Club, and I am having a blast. Glad to read you liked them as well. I, too, enjoy the different characters and what they bring to the story.

    1. Thanks, Lavinia. Fortunately, only one side was majorly affected—the children’s section—and the staff was able to temporarily relocate it to the very spacious events room. They couldn’t move all the books and toys, but they have moved enough to make it fun for the kids. The adults’ section is fine, and when Clif went to the library on Monday, there was no oil smell. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for smell in the children’s section to go away.

  24. Global warming is definitely playing out in so many places in the world. I’m sorry to hear about the fluctuating weather and its disruption to your lovely library. I’ve never heard of such an event, but as the others have said, I’m glad the library has reopened and that books are flowing once again.

    1. Alas! And the results can be weird and counterintuitive, like that polar punch. Yes, so glad the library has reopened and that it didn’t have to stay closed for too long. The books are certainly flowing into my house again. 😉

  25. Oh, the poor library. What a mess. I hope the oil smell dissipates soon. And thanks for the review of Osman’s book. I also love that about blogging – finding new authors and books! Happy Reading.

Comments are closed.