Upcoming HVAC work in the Troy Public Library will result in the Friends of the Library shops closing for four to six weeks.

Upcoming HVAC work in the Troy Public Library will result in the Friends of the Library shops closing for four to six weeks.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Library HVAC work sparks discussion on possibility of new library

‘It feels like we’re putting duct tape on a sinking ship’

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published February 9, 2024


TROY — A section of the Troy Public Library will need to shut down for approximately six weeks to facilitate repairs and cleaning to its heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. However, some residents are displeased that such work has to take place.

The work is focused on removing mold and an influx of moisture in the system.

“In late last fall, we discovered that water had come into our heating and cooling system and had gotten some of the installation wet, and mold had begun growing,” explained Phillip Kwik, the assistant director of the Troy Public Library. “We tested it, found out the extent of it and came up with a remediation plan. The good news is that there is nothing that is harmful to people, but some areas do have some smells sometimes. Nonetheless, it needs to be remediated before it gets any worse.”

Most of the library’s services and resources will remain in operation, since the work will mainly take place in either the basement or staff areas.

“The work will cost roughly $250,000,” said Kwik. “About $50,000 will be used to heat the area, since the heating and cooling unit will need to be shut down for the duration of the work, which will be about six weeks. It affects the south wing of the building, which is the original part of the building from 1971. It affects the youth department and some of the staff offices in the back of the building.”

Kwik said the exact timeline of when the work will begin has yet to be determined.

“We don’t know the starting time of the project. We expect it to be sometime in March or April. We want it done by the summer, which is our busy time with our summer programs and reading clubs and kids are out of school. With supply delays, we can’t yet give an exact timeline, but we hope to have it done in the next three months. We will announce it on social media and so forth when we figure it all out.”

The point of contention in regard to the project comes from it necessitating the temporary closure of the Friends of the Troy Public Library Book Shop, a space of about 1,200 square feet, plus another 1,000 square feet of sorting and storage.

“Other than the temperature issue, most of the work will not be seen by the public. It will take place in the basement,” said Kwik. “Unfortunately, the Friends bookshop is also in the basement, which also means they will also need to shut down. It will, unfortunately, mean a loss of perhaps $10,000 in sales.”

Charles Church is one of the Friends of the Troy Public Library who spoke at the Troy City Council meeting Jan. 29, expressing concerns about how the work will negatively affect the efforts of the Friends’ mission of supporting the library.

“The HVAC repair is estimated to be closed for six weeks. During that time, our bookshop will have to be closed. This six-week closure will equate to at least a $6,000 loss in revenue,” said Church. “Other factors will also negatively affect our revenue as a result of the repair. One, to make room for the repairs, we will need to box and relocate all of our inventory. We also have to disassemble and relocate all of our shelving. Once the repairs are completed, we will then have to reverse the process. Consequently, we will have to close our shop two weeks prior to the repairs and two weeks after the repairs — a loss of another $4,000 in revenue.”

Other speakers at the meeting noted that the closure of the Friends’ Book Shop will also mean that donations of books to seniors will be suspended until the work is completed and that the volunteer service hours that are required by many students in the community will not be available.

“During this closure we will also not be able to accept donations, as we will have nowhere to process and store them and thus will have less inventory for sale,” said Church. “Our regular customers will have to find another bookshop while we are closed, and there’s always the risk they may not return after such a long shutdown. Based on how long it has taken us to recover from the COVID shutdown, it may take us six months to rebound from this situation.”

Many members of the Friends of the Troy Public Library, including Church, said that what the community really needs is a larger and more modern home for its library services.

“We fully understand that these repairs must happen for the safety and health of staff, volunteers and patrons,” he said. “We also know that repairs are being done as fast as possible, and we are thankful for the support of library administrators and staff. I must say that we are also frustrated by the increasing frequency of repairs. It feels like we’re putting duct tape on a sinking ship. I know you’re all working hard to make Troy a world-class city, but our library is limping along trying its best to serve our city with insufficient space and technological capacity. My dream is to see a new library building, one that has the space and accessibility that the 21st century demands.”

Library officials said that the decision about creating a new library building is a larger question that needs to come from voters and city leadership.

“The question of replacing the library building is a question for the community and City Council to decide,” said Kwik. “The building is becoming less functional faster than we thought. It is having structural issues and space issues and desires from the public that we can’t meet. People are using the building more since COVID. Staff space needed is greater as we try to increase our services, and like any building, it does deteriorate over time.”