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Louisville Libraries' Air Conditioning Struggles Amid High Temps

Louisville Free Public Library

Air conditioning units at Louisville Free Public Library facilities are struggling under recent high temperatures in the city, prompting a cut in hours at the Southwest Regional Library built just four years ago.

Library spokesman Paul Burns said recent high temperatures prompted officials to close the Southwest Library twice this week. Burns said air conditioning units at the South Central and Western Branch libraries also faltered last week, leading to complaints from workers and patrons.

He said such issues around this time of the year are common, but that multiple systems failing at similar times was out of the norm.

“Sometimes systems at the beginning of the summer have issues getting up and running,” Burns said. “We’re going to do whatever we need to do to make sure the libraries stay open and that patrons and staff are comfortable during the hot summer.”

Brian Boles, a legislative assistant for Councilman David Yates, said a site visit will be scheduled for South Central Regional Library to determine if the units are still under warranty.

Ron Richmond, a spokesman for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 962, said the failing air conditioning units indicate a lack of supervision on the buildings.

“People with various income ranges within the communities depend on the libraries,” Richmond said. “When you allow something as simple as vacant positions to stack up or heating systems to fail, what appears to be almost across the whole system, that tells me that their focus is in the wrong place.”

In an email to Councilwoman Barbara Sexton-Smith, a library employee said workers and patrons of the Western Branch Library were dealing with high temperatures for three days.

“It has made for a more difficult working environment even for staff sitting at the desk, and is not comfortable for patrons either,” the employee wrote in the email. “My coworker, who suffered heatstroke in the past, is experiencing some of those same symptoms while in the branch today.”

Cole Sites, a spokesman for the union representing library employees, sent images of thermostat readings from the buildings that week to WFPL. An image of the southwest branch’s thermostat read 79 degrees indoors with 63 percent humidity, and an image from the western branch read 80 degrees.

Library spokesman Burns said the Western Branch and South Central Branch's air conditioning has been repaired. The Southwest Library was open on Thursday.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.