Originally posted on October 23, 2007.
It finally happened. Ever since the day the library's emergency exit door alarm went off and I couldn't hear it to turn it off, I've wondered what would happen if an alarm sounded on my shift again. It happened but it turned out different than I ever imagined.
I was alone at the reference desk when I became aware of a mechanical voice saying "elevators". I listened closer. This time I made out the phrase "do not use elevators". Hmmm. Just outside the library's entrance one of the university's elevators was under construction to the accompaniment of loud drilling. Did the elevator repairmen set off an alarm? I went to check with the circulation staff as their desk is located closest to the entrance. They said they hadn't heard an alarm message and to check with the director. I went to the director's office area. I found her standing next to the photocopier with a large stack of papers going through the feeder. She hadn't heard anything either. Strange. I returned to the reference area and could hear the entire message this time - an alarm was sounding and the building needed to be evacuated! I started informing the patrons at the computer terminals that they needed to leave. None of them had registered an alarm. One patron said she had thought the sound was just someone's cellphone ringing (which isn't too far off base not counting the message part of course). By this time staff members and patrons from other parts of the library were filing out to the front door. Having verified the alarm, the director came to help me get the stragglers in the reference area to leave. There was still one woman gathering up her belongings when patrons and staff members returned with the all clear message.
Fortunately, it was not a real emergency but only a false alarm. I never found out if it was caused by the elevator repair crew or not. Most important, I can sleep at night knowing the library is safe with me on duty. I would never have imagined that I as SpeakUp Librarian would be the only one to be aware of the alarm. Real life- it really is stranger than fiction.