Beating the Heat

By Chris Wangler
July 14, 2023

Waltham’s mayor and library director are working with city building officials to deal with an air conditioning issue that is making the Waltham Public Library uncomfortable amid the summer swelter.

Ongoing issues with the WPL’s aging HVAC system have caused temps inside the library to rise as high as 100 degrees in the afternoons.


In a message to patrons, library director Kelly Linehan said the 5 of the 7 air conditioning units are non-functional. That leaves two units that are overtaxed and fail once a week. Currently they are not working.

“When this happens, hot air from outside blows into the building, adding more heat,” she said.

For the safety of patrons and staff, the library schedule was changed, opening most weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to noon and then again from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.

This week, to cool down the ground floor and first floor where patrons go, the city purchased and installed 11 smaller A/C units, according to mayor Jeannette McCarthy.


She added that workers are also trying to trace a leak in the existing HVAC system.

In the interim, McCarthy is making the air conditioned auditorium at the former South Middle School available for library programming for children.

“The mayor genuinely loves and appreciates the library and is trying to resolve this issue for us,” Linehan said.

Designing the New System

Last March, the city council approved $220,000 to design a new HVAC system for the WPL, the mayor said. 

Engineers have been working on it since late spring, added Linehan, with a meeting Friday to accelerate the process, but it will take time.

“There is no anticipated fix until mid-2024,” she told patrons recently.

If the situation becomes dire, mayor McCarthy said she could approach state infrastructure officials for an emergency waiver.

Meanwhile, Linehan said library supporters have stepped up. Some of the Friends of the library purchased tables and chairs so patrons can work and read outside.

“Our patrons are truly the best,” she said. “They’ve offered support, fans and A/C units, and some even brought frozen smoothies for staff.”

She told patrons she hopes to return to normal operating hours by Labor Day, if not sooner. 

In the interim, navigate to the WPL website and social media channels for updates.

File photos