Library patrons visiting the Van Nest Library were out of luck when the branch’s air conditioning broke down during the heat wave.
The branch at 2147 Barnes Avenue was closed from Monday, July 18 until press time because of a malfunctioning air conditioning unit that required substantial repairs, said New York Public Library spokeswoman Amy Geduldig.
The air conditioning in the branch had been on the fritz for the past two weeks, but the recent heat wave drove temperatures inside to over 90 degrees, necessitating a closure, said library activist Jeff Panish.
Panish, who uses the library almost every day, said he had been in touch with NYPL officials about the situation.
“I called the office of the president of the NYPL and told them point blank that they had to fix the air conditioning or else someone might pass out or possibly even die in the place,” Panish said. “Heat conditions for both patrons like myself and the staff had become unbearable.”
Parents of young children and seniors would have to walk 15 or 20 blocks in weather that sometimes topped 100 degrees to get to either the Allerton branch at 2740 Barnes Avenue or the Morris Park branch at 985 Morris Park Avenue, Panish said.
The library has been exceptionally well run under its new manager, David Nochimson, said both Panish and Community Board 11 district manager Jeremy Warneke.
The branch serves a vital community need because there are just three libraries in the entire board, Warneke said.
“We only have three libraries in our district, and the Van Nest branch is in a high density area in terms of population, where there is obviously a need for these kind of services,” Warneke said. “We have a lot of seniors in the area who use the library, as well as kids in summer reading programs who need access.”
The building is a haven for people looking for latest releases on video, offering a lot of quality films for free, Warneke said. The building is also a great resource in terms of providing a space where kids can go to keep them off the streets and also work on summer reading assignments, Panish said.
“It is really a tremendous community resource that the neighborhood makes good use of,” Panish said. “I don’t fault the branch manager or the staff because they had to deal with the unbearable heat themselves.”
On Monday, July 25 workers from NYPL Facilities and a private contractor were inside once again in an effort to make progress on the broken air conditioner, Panish said.
Originally it was believed that the by replacing a compressor in the air conditioning unit at the branch would resolve the matter, Geduldig said, but then it became apparent that more extensive repairs were needed, which delayed the re-opening.