ASSOCIATES (2005, July, v. 12, no. 1) -

*Library Life:
A Column Of Eclectic Rantings*


Katie Buller Kintner

I’m sitting here in the den, where it is not air-conditioned on a 99-degree day, writing my column at the last minute as usual. Furthermore, as usual, I am completely devoid of ideas for this month’s column, which is odd since I have had three months to think about it. Actually I remember an idea flitting through my head about a month ago but now that idea is gone. Too bad, it was a good one.

The heat has me a little crazy, I’ll admit it. One minute I’m lounging in the Laz-E-Boy, the next I am wringing sweat out of a towel. We have an air conditioner but it’s only for the upstairs, which I never am. Since the air conditioner is in the hallway, I had hubby close all the doors up there, turn on the AC and put a fan at the top of the stairs, aiming it downward. Then we put a sheet up between the living room and dining room to contain the cool air in the living room. It’s working—the temp in there is at least 15 degrees cooler than outside but I am still sweating.

Heat does strange things in libraries too. One library I used to have to visit for job-related research had no air-conditioning in the stacks. This library, which shall remain nameless, also had no screens on its windows, so the windows in the stacks were either closed or if open, admitting pigeons, bats and other critters. Honestly and this was a world-class research library too! Remember my column about tripping over books piled on the floor by the shelvers? Mmm...yep that’s the one.

The staff and patrons can be made crazy by the heat too. Another library I worked in had AC, but it didn’t work very well. Some parts of the library got pretty warm and when that happened, the food that was sneaked in by patrons made itself known. Old banana peels, overripe rotten apples, even sticky sweet drinks could make a great stew in some hidden wastebasket. It was also fodder for ants and they came by the thousands. Image sitting in a study room trying to work when you feel a battalion of ants go crawling up your leg! Or having to post signs on the furniture warning people not to sit down because of the ants. Cockroaches, worms and other vermin love the heat too—they invade the books, lay eggs, chew and defecate with the delicate charm of a herd of cattle on hot days.

Patrons do strange things too. How many of you notice that on warm days, a few of the regular patrons seem to get a bit ripe? In our library, it wasn’t unusual to see someone in a winter jacket on a 90-degree day. I would think back to the old George Carlin joke—when you stink, put a bay leaf under each arm and then you’ll smell like soup. Would it be advisable for libraries to hand out bay leaves?

Another hazard of excessive heat is the presence of a lot of menopausal women on the staff. This can be a real problem in libraries that go through cycles of hiring. A group hired at the same time can age together, go through pregnancies together, get peri-menopausal and finally enter into that grand final phase together. God help anyone working with this group on a warm day! I can remember window fights—that is, the menopausal women wanting the windows closed so the AC could fire up and the fresh-air fanatics pushing them open so they could “breathe clean air”. Some days they came close to fisticuffs.

Heat can lead to injury too. When trying to alleviate the heat during one particularly hot day, I was trying to crank open a window near the circulation desk. To reach it, one had to be in an awkward position and wouldn’t you know it, I slipped and put my elbow right through the glass. I wasn’t injured seriously but oh my gosh, the papers you have to fill out for that sort of thing! Then they made me go to a college-approved doctor to get verification that I was still able to work. Darned heat!

Of course the computers don’t react well to heat. I have never understood the reasoning behind putting a lot of expensive computers into a facility that had little functioning air conditioning, basically turning them into inanimate objets d’art. On the other hand, in my early library days, I lobbied for more computers all the time. Why? Because the computers would require that the administration upgrade the air-conditioning. Yes, I was delusional then too, but on the rare occasion it worked, I found myself wondering why the library administration would cough up the bucks to keep the machines cool, but not the people. Weren’t we valuable resources too? But that’s another column.

Anyway, this column is short because I’m getting cranky with the heat and want to go back to my little air-conditioned pocket of pleasantness in the other room. All you folks out there keep cool this summer and every time you stick your head in the freezer, think of me.

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