Absolutely No Chill

It’s almost always too warm in the library where I work.

This is not usual. I’ve been told that schools and libraries present unique HVAC challenges. I’m not sure I buy that. In the United States, its rare to go into a Walmart or a grocery store or a mall or a bowling alley and find the temperature oppressive in either direction. It’s rare for the air to be completely stagnant in commercial spaces. By contrast, in public schools and public libraries, HVAC problems seem to be the norm.

I worked at one public library where we could keep the temperature at either 60F or 80F. Rain or shine, summer or winter, we could be cold or we could be hot. There was no in between.

We were told the HVAC system was so outmoded that a new system would require extreme custom retrofitting, and the county just couldn’t afford it. This library was built all the way back in 1991, after all.

At the last public school where I worked, some students did more than dress in layers, they carried fleece blankets in their backpacks because some classrooms were so much colder than others. Some teachers had loaner sweatshirts in their rooms.

Personally, I’d much prefer to work in a library that is too cold rather than one that is too hot. I find it easier to stay focused if I’m a little chilly than if I’m a bit too warm. I get sleepy when I’m too warm.

Like generations of librarians and teachers before me, I’ve kept a grey cardigan handy in case the heat stops working or the air conditioning is too much. After yesterday, I’ve decided I need have a plan for when the library is too hot.

Yesterday, when I opened the door, I noticed it was even warmer than usual, but I thought it would be manageable. My supervisor told me that a ticket had already been submitted.

As the day went on, the temperature marched upward. At the service desk, the indoor thermometer read 82. It felt hotter. I don’t have a measurement for the humidity—it was like being outside before a thunderstorm, except with no breeze.

I put my hair up with a pencil. I rolled up my sleeves. I found that the far side of the desk was less unbearable than the one closest to the door. I stayed over there as much as I could.

I became listless. I moved slowly. I became sweaty, and then sweatier. When I left work, I was sure I looked like I was on my way to a wet wrinkle-free blouse contest.

What I need to do is get some of those wicking shirts that golfers wear. Or maybe the kind that are made for frequent travelers? Just one or two reasonably professional looking shirts I can keep in my desk for when the building is super hot. Although, honestly, if it’s going to be 82 and sticky, “reasonably professional” seems like an unreasonably high standard.

One thought on “Absolutely No Chill

  1. I’m so sorry your library’s circulation system is so poor. Either 60 degrees or 80 degrees? That’s just wrong. Do you know about small fans? At my previous job, there were desks in front of a wall of windows that faced west. On summer afternoons, no matter how good the air conditioning was, if you sat at one of those desks in front of the windows, it could get hot. A colleague had a small fan that clipped onto a bookshelf near his chair. I’m more sensitive to cold than heat, myself, and in the summer, I had a small heater under my desk for when the air conditioning got too cold for me.


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