Why is the library so cold?

This question comes up a few times every year so I thought I’d address it on the blog.

First, know that the temperature control devices are not even in the library. Facilities controls the temperature.

Second, this building was built in 1969 when there was less concern about energy efficiency. Changing the way we heat and cool the building would take a prohibitively expensive re-design.

What this means is that it’s difficult to regulate temperature for a large building. Some parts (like the front and center of the first floor) will always be warmer than the less trafficked perimeter (like the study carrels along near the windows on the first and second floor).

“It’s cold in here and I think the air conditioner is running.” Yes. That happens. In order to keep the temperature even sometimes, even in winter, the AC runs to counter-act the the heater. Like I said, this building was built over 40 years ago when energy efficiency was a low priority.

The librarians and library staff are just as cold. My office is on the perimeter of the second floor next to a window. It gets cold in there. Right now it’s a shade above 66 degrees and I’m wearing a jacket. However, to turn up the heat enough to make me comfortable would probably result in temperatures in the high 70s in the most heavily trafficked part of the building. Comfortable for some, but overly warm for most people.

Keep in mind that we’re also controlling the temperature for the books. Books like cool, dry spaces. Heat and humidity shorten a book’s lifespan.

Finally, this is not unique to UT or to the library. I’ve worked in three different academic libraries (as a student, as a staff worker, and as a librarian), studied extensively in two others (as an undergrad and a graduate student) and done extended visits at a half-dozen more (I like to visit libraries when I travel!) and unnatural coldness is a common complaint. Often for the same reasons. The buildings are old and it’s difficult to reconcile the hot parts with the cold parts.

Until we get a new building (and I don’t think there’s any urgency to break ground on a new one any time soon) we’ll all have to remember to bring extra sweaters and jackets while visiting (or working in) the library.

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