Germantown plans for a summer without a neighborhood library

 Lynn Williamson and Jim Pecora of the Free Library of Philadelphia at Coleman Library. (Emily Brooks/for NewsWorks)

Lynn Williamson and Jim Pecora of the Free Library of Philadelphia at Coleman Library. (Emily Brooks/for NewsWorks)

Members of the Germantown community and library staff  gathered in the meeting room of the Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library on Wednesday to come up with a contingency plan for the neighbhorhood to deal with what looks like a library-less summer. 

High power fans and a window AC unit worked overtime to keep the room, just a fraction of the library’s entire space, cool and comfortable.

The library has been closed since May 9 due to a compressor failure in its central air system. Though the compressor is just two years old, it is the third time in the past several years that the library has been forced to close temporarily due to heating and air conditioning issues.

Library users were offered an update on repairs, a revised reopening date and the chance to ask any questions concerning the library’s closure.

Jim Pecora, vice president of property management for the Free Library of Philadelphia, addressed the group of about 20.

“This job is more complicated than I thought it was going to be,” he said. Originally Pecora and library staff predicted the issue would be resolved by early July.

“We had an engineering report done and what we found is that various parts of this system have been added to and subtracted from for over 10 years … what we have discovered is that some of the different pieces that have been replaced throughout the years just simply were not compatible.”

Pecora went on to explain that simply doing exactly what has been done in the past — replacing the broken elements within the system — might be a quick fix to have the library back up and running in a short period of time, but runs the likely risk of continued future failures.

He has recommended that the library replace the system all together — a project with a $143,000 price tag and a 14-week time stamp. Pecora added that funding for the project has already been secured. 

The library is currently looking into ways they can keep Coleman Library open on curtailed hours while the repairs are being made.

“If we can safely and efficiently get some temporary units in here and block out certain areas of the library such as the meeting spaces and children’s area, we will do what we can to make that happen,” Pecora said.

Throughout the closure the library’s Techmobile truck will be available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Chelten Avenue outside of the library. The Techmobile offers eight computers for those needing to check email, apply for jobs and/or school or fulfill any basic computer/internet needs.

A member of state Representative Rosita Youngblood’s staff said Youngblood’s district office located at 310 W. Chelten Ave. welcomes community members to free access of computers in their office for resume and application support.

Finding a replacement for library programming, especially the children’s summer reading program, has yet to be resolved.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.