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Why Seattle Libraries Have Over 130 Closures This Summer | Entertainment

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As record temperatures hit Seattle this summer, fan sales skyrocketed, kiddie pools were overcrowded and health warnings were issued…

And the library is closed.

According to the Seattle Public Library, there were more than 130 full-day or partial closures due to the heat in June, July and August.

Nine of the system’s 27 branches have no air conditioning, and SPL’s current policy is to close them if indoor temperatures reach or are expected to reach 80 degrees for more than an hour.

Such closures have become more common in recent times, disrupting service at branches many Seattle residents rely on to check books, use the internet, or rest in peace. increase.

SPL staff don’t like the closure because it gets in the way of processing materials and interacting with patrons, said the Northeast branch’s teenage service librarian of AFSCME Local 2083, a union of Seattle library workers. Vice President Jessica Lucas said. The Book Drop remains open, so the returned books pile up. Staff are usually redeployed to air-conditioned branches. This means extra travel, he added Lucas. Still, working in the heat is worse, so closures are necessary, she said.

“Some patrons really understand, some don’t understand at all,” said Lucas, who occasionally hears patrons complain. “We have him on an eight-hour shift and he’s here all day and has to do manual labor in between.”

The SPL’s threshold for thermal closure was previously 90 degrees, but was raised to 85 degrees in 2018 based on “concerns about the health and safety of staff and patrons” and an increase in heat waves over several days. The reduction has been made, said SPL spokeswoman Laura Gentry. threshold is used.

Green Lake and University chapters had the most all-day thermal shutdowns this summer, canceling service entirely for seven days each. The Northeast branch, currently the system’s most indebted, had the most partial heat stroke closure in 19 days.

“This is part of the larger problem that the Pacific Northwest in general has been unable to cope with the scorching summer weather that Seattle is currently experiencing,” said Darth Nielsen, SPL’s assistant director of public services. ‘ said. “We see this as a long-term problem and we have to address it.”

SPL plans to add air conditioning to some branches over the next few years and is seeking funding for others, Nielsen said.

Six of the city’s nine chapters without air conditioning, including Green Lake and the University, were built over 100 years ago with a grant from New York steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie, who funded libraries across the country. .

Northeast and Southwest branches were built in the 1950s and expanded in the 2000s. The NewHolly branch moved into a new building in 1999 as part of an improved public housing community.

Carnegie’s branch was built before air-conditioning, but the northeastern branch keeps it cool with the help of fans, low windows to “catch the wind” and high windows to “let the heat escape.” Nielsen said it was built to

“The design was considered environmentally friendly at the time,” he said. “But things are getting hotter and hotter,” and wildfire smoke is becoming more frequent in Seattle, forcing the branch to close its windows at times.

All 50 King County Library System branches are air-conditioned, said a spokesperson. While Seattle has closed certain pools on extremely hot days in the past, spaces such as city hall, police, fire departments and childcare classrooms have not closed due to the heat in recent memory, a Treasury Department spokeswoman said. The person in charge said.

SPL won’t start tracking heat- and smoke-related closures until 2020, Gentry said. Branch closed in summer 2020 due to COVID. In the summer of 2021 he had 17 all-day closures and he had 40 partial-day closures, while this summer he had 39 all-day closures and he had 92 partial-day closures. .

The City Council has allocated $1.7 million to install air conditioning in the Northeast and Southwest branches, and the Green Lake branch will have air conditioning as part of a seismic retrofit next year.

SPL has applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to fund air conditioning in other branches, Gentry said.

The branch in question not only needs air conditioning so it can remain open for patrons, but is also supposed to act as a “cooling center” during heatwaves, Lucas said. .

Nielsen has received a lot of comments about its closure this summer. This shows how much Seattle residents care, he said. he said.

SPL is trying to solve the problem, Nielsen said. In recent weeks, the system has been experimented with earlier in unair-conditioned branches to take advantage of the cooler morning hours. That required buy-in from staff, he said.

“We lift things, push things, move things from one place to another,” Lucas wrote in an email. “We are staying open for as long as we can, and in the meantime doing everything we can without hurting ourselves.”