"More than machinery, we need humanity."

What to Do When the Internet Stops Working in Your Library

There may come a day when you find yourself happily sitting in a library only to have your pleasant feelings disrupted by the recognition that the Internet has stopped working. The purpose of this guide is to help you navigate this stressful situation successfully. As this guide is posted online you will not be able to access it during an incident in which the Internet actually stops working, therefore it is recommended that you study it in advance and commit its recommendations to memory.

Remain Calm

Upon realizing that the Internet has stopped working your initial step should be to take a deep breath.

Everything will be alright. In the grand scheme of possible problems, this one is not too terrible.

Take a moment to reflect upon the fact that most of human history has not involved access to the Internet. Therefore it should not be too Herculean a task to go without the Internet for a couple of minutes; after all, Hercules completed all of his (actually) Herculean tasks without using the Internet. It may well be that what you are experiencing is just a minor delay in service (a router has come unplugged, your wi-fi card is acting up, the router was re-set) and everything will return to normal soon.

In other words – it is not necessary for you to immediately approach a member of the library’s staff (or contact the IT department if you are yourself a member of the library’s staff); things might resolve themselves without you having to take any type of action! Furthermore, the library staff (or IT department) may provide the initial direction for you to “just give it five minutes” – and this is a piece of advice that you can take without having to bother anybody. Just sit calmly – and perhaps contemplate the meaning (or meaninglessness) of existence while you wait.

Another action you can take while you wait, if you have a proclivity for apocalyptic paranoia, is that you can stroll to one of the library’s windows. Look outside, this will allow you to assess whether or not civilization is collapsing. If civilization is in fact collapsing this will explain why the Internet isn’t working, it will also make it immediately clear that you really have bigger problems to think about than the fact that the Internet is not working. That being said – when you look outside you will probably note that things look more or less normal.

And thus you should continue waiting calmly.

Bring the matter to the attention of the relevant people

After waiting calmly for several minutes and doing the obvious things to attempt to regain Internet access (checking that your wi-fi is on, closing and re-opening your browser, re-starting your computer, sacrificing a floppy disc to the cruel gods of technology) you may determine that the time has come to voice your concerns.Approach a member of the library’s staff (or a member of the IT department if you are a member of the library’s staff) and politely (politely!) mention that there seems to be something wrong with the Internet.

At this point they will likely reply with some variation of a comment that expresses gratitude, but which simultaneously indicates that they were already aware of the issue. You should prepare yourself to receive the message “we’re working on it” – at which point you will be expected to return to waiting calmly for the issue to be resolved. It is very important to note that after you have brought this matter to the attention of the relevant people there is no point in you reminding them about this issue every five minutes until the matter is resolved. In truth they likely recognized that there was a problem before you did and they are already reeling in horrified anguish as they come to grips with the chaos that is befalling the library! It is also quite possible that they are despairing at the way that the modern library has become so reliant on the Internet that a simple outage can cause such calamity. They may even be pining for the glory days of the card catalog!

Yes, bring this matter to the attention of the relevant people – but this is something you only need to do once.

Ask yourself: “in what way might I be personally responsible for this Internet outage?”

Have you recently:

  • Disconnected one of the library’s Internet cables?
  • Cut the wire connecting the library’s router to the modem?
  • Smashed all of the library’s computers with a large mallet?
  • Offended the jealous gods of technology by failing to appease them with an appropriate sacrifice?
  • Turned the wi-fi to “off” on the device you are using to connect to the Internet?
  • Sabotaged the undersea cables through which much Internet traffic still flows?
  • Failed to read the signs plastered all over the library announcing the Internet is out of service due to mandatory maintenance?
  • Gone back in time to a year before the Internet existed?
  • Completed a pact with a demon in which you traded away your ability to use the Internet in exchange for eternal youth and beauty which you only now realize you won’t be able to monetize through the Internet because you have traded away your ability to use the Internet?
  • Accidentally unplugged the computer you are using with your foot?
  • “Accidentally” unplugged the computer you are using so that you have an excuse to talk to the librarian (or member of the IT department if you are in fact the librarian) you secretly have a crush on?

If you answered “yes” or “maybe” to any of these questions, you may be at fault. Shame on you. Shame!

Consider going somewhere else

So the Internet in the library is down…but might there not be Internet access somewhere else? You could try going to such a place. Granted, it is always possible that you will arrive at the other place only to find (alas!) that the Internet isn’t working there either! Or it could be that as soon as you leave the library that the Internet will start working again and in that case you will have trudged somewhere else (and maybe even had to buy a cup of overpriced coffee) when you really could have just stayed put. If only you had been more patient! And yet, it is important to pause as you consider this option – for the very fact that this strikes you as an available option reveals something about your relationship with the Internet. Namely: you can go elsewhere for Internet access. This is not an option available to all people. Indeed, many people rely on the library for Internet access. This is not to say that you are not allowed to seek out other locations where the Internet connection is working – but as you do so…have some humility.


After you have waited for upwards of fifteen minutes you may be tempted to panic. What status updates are you missing? What is trending on Twitter? How many operating system updates have been unveiled? What trailer for that cultural property you love has been unveiled? What outrageous thing has a politician said now?

You might be tempted to panic.

But do not do this. Really. Everything will be okay.


Check to see how widespread the problem is

It may be the case that the problem isn’t just with the library’s Internet…it may be that there is some kind of horrible plague going about that is striking down all kinds of nets. Therefore you should check to see if the following things are still functioning normally:

  • Hairnets
  • Nets used for catching fish
  • The Netherworld
  • The network news
  • Butterfly nets
  • The Brooklyn Nets
  • Castanets
  • Nettles
  • DVDS of the academy award winning, from 1976, film “The Network”
  • Basketball nets
  • Fishnet stockings
  • Nets used by gladiators
  • The phrase “nothing but net”
  • Your nethers
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Basketball nets
  • Police dragnets
  • The Netherlands
  • Netsuke
  • Soccer nets
  • VHS copies of the Sandra Bullock film “The Net”

Oh, and you should probably also check to see if the Internet is working next door.

Reevaluate how dependent you have become on the Internet

Too often, we only really think about a given technology when it stops working. It is easy to become so thoroughly accustomed to the features of technological society that these contrivances simply vanish from thought. These technologies simply become “there” and little thought needs to be given to how these things came to be “there” and what types of work are required for keeping these things “there.” As you become ever more reliant on a given technology it becomes all too easy to assume that it will always be there for you, indeed part of the reason it becomes so easy to become reliant is out of an assumption that the piece of technology in question will always be there. And yet, technology has a habit of breaking down from time to time. Sure there are the obvious cases such as when you drop something and it ceases working – but there are also other instances such as finding yourself sitting in front of a computer in the library when the Internet is not working. The Internet involves a huge amount of infrastructure to function, this includes (though this list is not exhaustive): routers, modems, computers, servers, underground cables, undersea cables, and the list goes on.

It may seem to be comically apocalyptic to ask “are you prepared for the Internet to stop working” – but the more reliant on the Internet you are the more important it becomes to ask this question. Without Internet access can you do the work you need to do (be it school work, professional work, art work, or etc…)? Without Internet access can you get in touch with your friends and family? Without Internet access are you stuck twiddling your thumbs for lack of anything else to do? Without Internet access do you no longer have a way to show your train ticket or pay for your lunch?

Granted, this is not just a question for the frustrated library patron – it is a question for the library staff as well! If the library catalog is only accessible online – what happens when the Internet goes out? If numerous archival collections have been digitized and are only accessible online – what happens when online access goes down? When the Internet goes down at the library does it also mean that the library’s website becomes inaccessible? If patrons need to request material through the online system – what…well you get where this is going by now don’t you? Of course you do.

The Internet can be a useful tool. But even if a tool doesn’t resemble a hammer, a clumsy user can still wind up smashing themselves with it if they aren’t thinking.

Ask yourself: “have I become wrapped up in a web of espionage and International Intrigue?”

What strange things have occurred to you in the last 24 hours? Has a mysterious stranger asked you to take an envelope to the post office? Has an alluring individual brushed up against you and possibly dropped something into your bag? Were you in the process of hacking into a secure government server? Were you downloading something that you were sure was innocuous but may have actually been a secret cache of encrypted documents? Might you actually be a secret agent who has been brainwashed or might you be experiencing amnesia? If you answered yes (or maybe) to any of these questions you may have become enmeshed in some manner of nefarious plot! You could have unwittingly become the pawn of vast networks of spies, secret societies, and potentially evil cultists worshipping some horrid extra-dimensional being! The Internet disruption you are encountering may not be a simple occurrence – your Internet access could be being blocked! Remain calm! You do not want to give away to those who are watching you (and they are watching your every move!) that you are onto them! Instead, look around casually attempt to see if there are any other library patrons attempting to use the Internet? If they are also encountering problems you may be safe, though it might also be that Internet service in the entire library has been blocked out! Even as you read this the library in which you are sitting might be being encircled by those who mean you ill! Slowly back away from the computer and enact your escape plan.

You have an escape plan right?

Of course you do.

Read a book

The Internet isn’t working, but you are in a library.

Chances are there are books.

Why not read one of them?


More Useful Advice!

How to Sleep in a Library

How Not to Ruin Books

How to Read a Large Book While Riding in Crowded Public Transit

How to Avoid Being Bothered While Working in a Library

How to Organize Your Library


About Z.M.L

“I do not believe that things will turn out well, but the idea that they might is of decisive importance.” – Max Horkheimer @libshipwreck

4 comments on “What to Do When the Internet Stops Working in Your Library

  1. Pingback: En Garde! How to Defend Yourself With a Book | LibrarianShipwreck

  2. Pingback: How to move a large quantity of books | LibrarianShipwreck

  3. Pingback: How to make the most of your trip to the archive | LibrarianShipwreck

  4. Pingback: How not to get sick at the library | LibrarianShipwreck

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This entry was posted on March 17, 2016 by in Humor, Impending Doom, Libraries, Public libraries, Technology, The Internet and tagged , , .

Ne'er do wells



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