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How to stay cool in a library

According to numerous scientific studies, as well as ample anecdotal evidence, it is hot in the summer. Furthermore, as recent headlines from around the world attest, this particular summer is proving to be one that is delivering record-breaking temperatures. What does one want and/or need to do when one is sweltering in the heat? Obviously, one needs to cool down. And what better place to do this than at a library!

Granted, when the temperature is high it is rarely sufficient just to head somewhere that is air-conditioned – and thus, what follows are some tips sourced from our panel of experts on how you can stay cool while working in a library this summer. These tips should be useful for the person seeking a brief respite in the library as well as for the academic spending a month of research at the library during the summer.

[Clarifying editorial note: Lest there be any confusion, in what follows (and what has come thus far) the word “cool” is used in reference to temperature. Specifically, “cool” is herein linked to being the opposite of hot. Given that libraries are still framed by popular culture as “nerdy” spaces, it is understandable that some might be concerned about how they can stay “cool” (as in hip) while working in a library – but that is a matter for another time. To state it plainly: those who are looking for tips on how to remain “cool” (as in hip) will not find this guide helpful, unless they are also concerned with how to avoid overheating during the summer (which they should be).]

Dress Appropriately: If the world of fashion can be trusted (expert researchers are divided as to the answer to this question), it may well be that some people have different sorts of wardrobes depending on the season. This may all just be a ploy to make people buy more clothing, but anecdotal accounts and field observations reveal that people are more likely to wear shorts and flip flops in July than in December. Therefore, if you are heading to the library in the summer you may already be dressed in seasonal attire that is designed to optimize your keeping cool. That being said, though not all libraries have explicit signage with these details, if you’re visiting the library to stave off the heat you will need to remember that the library is not the beach or a pool. Again, not every library will have a “no shirt, no shoes” sign – but if you walk into a library without a shirt or shoes you might wind up having to have an awkward conversation with a librarian – and that conversation will not be fun for either of you. All this being said, you should be aware of the fact that library patrons have been known to grouse that some libraries are (in fact) too cold in the summer. Thus, it is recommended that if you head to the library to keep cool that you bring a layer, such as a sweater (really), so that you will be prepared should you find that the library has taken you from hot to pleasantly cool to just cold. However, “how to stay warm in a library” is a topic for another time.

Location is Everything: One of the challenges of working in a library, regardless of the season, is picking the optimal spot. Indeed, there are certain times of year (in certain library environments), when it may even be necessary to reserve your space. While a variety of features may make one spot more desirable than another in the less hot months, in the summer the key thing is to find the coolest spots in the library (as in temperature, not where the “cool” [as in hip] people gather). And, to be clear, temperatures can fluctuate greatly within a single library – such that there are areas which are significantly colder than others. In some cases, it will be relatively easy to predict which spots are going to be best: a spot directly under a ceiling fan or in front of a large standing fan will probably be better than a spot next to a large window through which blazing sunlight is pouring into the library. Similarly, a spot that is close to the air conditioning vent will be preferable to a spot by the front door through which the tendrils of humidity reach out to grasp patrons whenever new people enter the building. To determine the most refreshingly crisp areas of a library one may need to make repeat visits, talk to library regulars (who might not be willing to share this information), consult one of the people who work at the library, or determine where in the library the Yeti has built its summer nest.

Things that you should not bring with you: many people have devised their own sets of techniques and tools that they make use of in the summer for the purposes of keeping cool, and many a person transforms their domicile in the summer so as to guard against the heat. However, if you are going to the library there are certain cool-keeping accessories that you would be advised to not bring with you. The following things should be left at home:

  • Refrigerators
  • Wading pools
  • Slip-and-slides
  • Ice machines
  • Water pistols
  • Air-conditioners
  • Blenders
  • Box fans
  • Super soakers
  • Inflatable pools
  • Beach umbrellas
  • Sprinklers

Trust the experts: despite the fact that you may in fact be an air-conditioning repair person, an architect with a specialty in igloos, an interior designer with expertise in air flow, or a retired arctic explorer – when it comes to the library the experts on keeping it cool in there (as in temperature and as in hip) are the members of the library’s staff. They are the ones who know the optimal spots to position the fans, the times of day at which blinds should be opened or closed, which (if any) windows should be opened or left shut, and they are the only ones with the authorization to fiddle with the air conditioning controls. According to a very large survey, involving a staggering number of library professionals, such people find it annoying when patrons ask them to move fans or turn up the A/C. Keeping cool (as in temperature) and getting hot headed (as in angry) is a poor combination! You may have quibbles with how the library staff is cooling the space, but keep in mind that they are uniquely aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the library’s cooling system. Trust their judgment. After all, they may be making decisions based on the need to keep the hibernating yetis docile, in order to keep the ancient horrors entombed in icy prisons in the library subbasement frozen, or in order to compensate for the fact that the library budget has been cut so viciously that the library cannot afford the needed cooling machinery. Or to put it another way: don’t antagonize the library staff in the summer (or ever). Though it is generally acceptable to ask a member of the library’s staff to direct you to the coolest (as in temperature) part of the library.

Please, no water balloon fights in the library: You may find yourself thinking that a water balloon fight would be a nice way to help everyone in the library cool down. But you are wrong. Starting a water balloon fight in the library is likely to get you banned for life.

Select Your Reading Material Carefully: Apparently there are such things as “summer reads” and “beach reads,” but an exhaustive study of such works has been inconclusive in determining whether reading such books has a positive or negative impact on how hot they make the reader (as in temperature not attractiveness). Indeed, one member of the research team went so far as to suggest that a book being classified as “summer” or “beach” has more to do with it being “light and enjoyable” than with such books being written in such a way as to make the reader feel cooler (except insofar as such books may be “in” which may mean that they make a reader feel “cool” [as in “hip” {which is not the focus here}]). The hypothesis of the study was that reading books about particular climates can have a sympathetic influence on readers, meaning: reading a book about people lost in the desert may make people feel hotter, while reading a book about an arctic voyage may make people feel colder. Lest there be any accusations of a cover-up, the study did not conclusively prove this hypothesis. Nevertheless, if you are feeling very hot already when you enter the library, you may want to avoid taking books off the shelves that are filled with stories of people being very hot (as in temperature, not as in attractive). Instead you might want to consider reading about the history of air-conditioning, mountaineering, ice ages, the Iditarod, the doomed voyage of The Terror, countries that are generally cold, ancient eldritch horrors entombed within icy prisons, and penguins.

Read a cool book: it can be problematic to fetishize printed books. This is not to say that there aren’t reasons to prefer physical books over e-books, but one should be conscious of whether or not one’s preferences are related to the different affordances of the format or if they are due to romanticizing a particular format. That being said, one of the affordances of a printed book that can be taken advantage of is that they are fairly sturdy objects. And it is in this spirit that a team of researchers, who wish to remain nameless, recommend that people read cool (as in temperature) books. And what they mean by this has nothing to do with content, and everything to do with the idea of sticking a book in the refrigerator (or in some kind of small cooler). This will make the book cold, and when you hold the book it will make your hands cold, thereby making you feel cooler. It should be noted that this is only acceptable to do with books that you personally own (not the library’s books), and you will need to cool the book ahead of time. Still, you could bring an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack and a book inside of it with you. You may be scratching your head and thinking that this sounds like an odd tip. And yes, it is not one that is universally accepted, but that person on the other side of the library who is looking so effortlessly cool (as in temperature, not as in “hip”) may well be reading a book that they refrigerated.

Avoid strenuous activity: there are certain activities that are likely to make a person who is already hot (as in temperature), even hotter. This is not to cast aspersions on those activities, but it is worth noting that pursuing those activities during the summer can be questionable if they are not undertaken wisely. Some examples of such activities include: exercise, construction, moving large quantities of heavy things (such as books), team sports, and mosh pits. One of the things that makes a library an ideal location to go in order to keep cool (as in temperature, not as in “hip”), is because a library is a place where one is generally not expected to engage in strenuous physical activity. Indeed, should one start a game of basketball or a mosh pit within a library, one is likely to be asked to leave. For the type of strenuous activity that is encouraged in a library is a thorough exercising of the brain muscle (note: the brain is not actually a muscle). Thus, when you go to the library in the summer, you should take advantage of the fact that it is a place where it is quite alright to simply sit relatively still.

Hydrate: according to a variety of trustworthy medical and health experts, when it is very hot out it is important to keep hydrated (experts also claim that it is important to keep hydrated even when it isn’t very hot out). You should familiarize yourself, therefore, with the availability of water at the library. Is there a water fountain? Is there a water cooler? Is there a sink that dispenses nice cold water? You may wish to consider bringing a refillable water bottle with you (something which is generally a good thing to have wherever you go in the summer), so that you can continually hydrate. Of course, you will need to be aware of the library’s policies regarding drinking in the library. While many a library is fine with patrons having water bottles (as long as they don’t spill them), there are certain types of libraries (and certain spaces within libraries [such as special collections reading rooms]) that may have firm “no food or beverages” policies. If you find yourself working in a space that will not permit you to have a water bottle you need to be extra certain that you are routinely taking breaks to drink.

Lastly, please, do not set up a snow cone stand in the library: who doesn’t like a frozen treat in the summer? Misanthropes and nihilists, that’s who. But that doesn’t mean that you should set up a snow cone stand in the library. Sure, you may tell yourself, the other patrons will enjoy the opportunity to buy something cold and sugary – but the point of going to the library to cool down is precisely that a library is a place you can go without being expected to buy anything. Furthermore, pestering other patrons will likely get you thrown out, and melting snow cones will leave food coloring stains all over the books. Some libraries have been known to have occasional events where ice cream or other cold treats are offered, but you should not take it upon yourself to force such an event upon the library.

With these tips in mind you should be prepared to stay nice and cool (as in temperature) in the library. Granted, as numerous influencers will attest, going to the library makes everyone cool.


More Excellent Advice!

How to sleep in a library

How not to ruin a book

How to organize your library

How to keep what you’re reading secret

How not to be bothered while working in a library

About Z.M.L

“I do not believe that things will turn out well, but the idea that they might is of decisive importance.” – Max Horkheimer @libshipwreck

3 comments on “How to stay cool in a library

  1. Pingback: How not to get sick at the library | LibrarianShipwreck

  2. Pingback: How to keep from getting distracted when you are trying to read | LibrarianShipwreck

  3. Pingback: How to Pick a Book for the Beach | LibrarianShipwreck

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This entry was posted on July 11, 2019 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , .

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