Corbin H. Crable
Employees at two area branches of the Johnson County Library report that few people have taken advantage of the opportunity to come in and cool off.
The Johnson County Health Department, in the middle of last month, announced that all 13 library branch locations throughout the county would be open as cooling centers. As a cooling center, anyone in need of relief from the summer’s heat could come in, sit, hydrate themselves and take a break. There are no set time limits for using a library as a cooling center, nor is there a requirement to check out books or use the library’s other services.
Barbara Mitchell, health education division director and public information officer for the health department, said she sees benefit in offering the public a place to go away from the intense heat that has plagued the metro area as of late.
“This gives people a place to go to cool off, and that’s important,” Mitchell said.
She said the health department has offered libraries as cooling centers for more than five years, and that they will remain cooling centers as needed. She added that the health department tries to make Johnson County residents aware of ways to protect themselves from the effects of soaring temperatures during the summer.
“We’ll send out press releases so the information can stay in front of people,” Mitchell said, “and the local media has been wonderful in making sure the message gets out as often as necessary.”
Even though the information may be getting out, not many people have seized the opportunity to use the Gardner Public Library as a cooling center, according to branch manager Terry Velasquez.
“At the Gardner branch, I haven’t really seen that,” she said. “The only people I’ve seen here trying to get away from the heat were the carnival workers (at last week’s Johnson County Fair). It was fun – they often stopped at the front desk to chat with us.”
Velasquez said her staff went the proverbial extra mile in preparing for people who may come in wanting to escape the soaring temperatures.
“We purchased a bunch of bottled water and have not used any of it,” she said. “We’re prepared to give water to people who are overheated.”
Debbie Frizzell, youth service specialist at the Edgerton branch of the Johnson County Public Library, said she has not seen much of a change in the number of people who visit the library each day during the summer.
“I think it’s pretty much a daily thing for the kids here,” Frizzell said. “If they want to get out and about, they’ll come here. Kids will just stroll through here and get a drink, sit down and cool off.”
According to weather.com, temperatures for the weekend will gradually drop, but it will remain hot. Friday, Aug. 13’s high will be 100, with a high of 91 on Saturday, Aug. 14. Highs are only expected to peak in the mid-80s for all of next week. Conditions will range from mostly sunny to partly cloudy.
For more information on the Johnson County Library’s branches as cooling centers, call (913) 495-2400 or visit www.jocolibrary.org.