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Some like it hot, but not books

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By Katy Korkos

It was 77 degrees when the Library Board met in Library Manager Charlie Kalogeros-Chattan’s office at 5:30 p.m. Monday, and that’s not because she likes a warm room. Problems with the heating and cooling system at the library have been the main cause of patron complaints at the main branch, with as many as 177 complaints filed this summer. “This month (October) it’s down to 45 complaints about excessive heat,” Kalogeros-Chattan said.“It’s not the heat – it’s the humidity,” is the truism that is especially on the mark for books. Wayne Kohlrust is the Internal Services Manager in the county, responsible for fleet, facilities and custodial services, and he has heard complaints from the library staff and patrons for many years. “We have a system that pumps humidity into the building,” Kohlrust said, adding that the county has an RFP ready to go out to a company called Total Building Commissioning.The company will evaluate the entire heating and cooling system in the 43,000-square-foot building. Kohlrust said that the company “will be looking at everything that makes up the heating/cooling system and coming up with solutions to solve the problem, adding that solutions might be “as simple as adding exhaust fans or as complex as scrapping the whole system.”The Library Board has been working for many months on a project to evaluate where the Los Alamos County Library System stands in relation to other libraries in towns of this size, in national laboratory towns, among New Mexico towns, in relation to towns with a similar collection size and towns selected by the school district for academic comparison. Mary Barr, chair of the library board, assembled data from other libraries and county customer satisfaction surveys in 2004 and 2006.Library management, the staff and the board would all rather look toward improving library programs and services than toward maintaining a comfortable temperature.“Sixty-eight percent of county residents rank the library as “essential” among county services,” Barr said. In the draft report presented by Barr, the Los Alamos County Library system is ranked above median in the total number of holdings, circulation and annual visits per capita.The library provides traditional library services such as books and reference materials, but also access to a long list of online databases. “A lot of people want wireless, and more than 50 percent of libraries have it now,” she said. She added that there were privacy issues involved with bringing wireless access to the library, but that they would be resolved soon. Responding to a comment from a library patron asking why downloadable media were not available for iPods, Kalogeros-Chattan said that Apple had not signed agreements with the company the library does business with.2008 should also bring at least three self-checkout stations to the library, improving the efficiency of the staff by allowing people to do their own checkout with a system that uses radio-frequency tags on the materials.The Upstairs Gallery is showing an exhibit called “Emergence: A New View of Life’s Origin”, a new traveling exhibit highlighting current research at the Santa Fe Institute. The library is also participating in the NEA’s Big Read project, and will host a book discussion of Rudolfo Anaya’s “Bless Me, Ultima” on at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15.The Library Board meets monthly, alternating between White Rock and the Hill. The next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3, in the White Rock Branch Library.