NEW ORLEANS — For a second summer in a row, the New Orleans Public Library has had to close one of its branches because of broken air conditioning.
Since Friday, the Robert E. Smith branch in Lakeview has had to close for portions of its regularly scheduled hours each day when the inside temperature hit 82 degrees.
It had to close the entire day Tuesday because the temperature was already over 82 degrees by 10 a.m., public library spokesman John Marc Sharpe said.
“In this instance at the Smith Library, an HVAC compressor failed and that part had to be ordered. I'm glad to say that we are expecting the part to be delivered and the repairs to be made this Thursday,” Sharpe said.
A compressor also failed last September at the Nix Library branch in the Riverbend neighborhood, forcing the library to close for four days. Nix staff members dressed down and provided frozen treats to keep the branch open for weeks without air conditioning, even as the record-high temperatures topped 90 degrees into October.
Some library patrons have complained about the repeated issues, especially after voters approved a tax hike in 2015 specifically to cover library operational expenses. What's more, the Smith library branch is a new building constructed after Hurricane Katrina.
But with both last year’s problem at Nix and the current one at Smith, it appears to be a bureaucratic issue, not a financial one. The library system has to go through a slow procurement process to order parts for larger commercial HVAC units and have them installed by outside vendors, rather than using in-house maintenance staff that can fix minor problems.
“We realize that the unexpected closures are inconvenient for library users and we want nothing more than to be open to serve them and will hopefully have this issue resolved by the end of this week,” Sharpe said.