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Suddenly, It's Cool to Go to Norwalk's Libraries

NORWALK, Conn. – Rylee Donahue's mom had been waiting "for a rainy day" to take her children to the Norwalk Public Library. Friday was it.

"I figured today, with the heat, it was an excuse not to be outside," said Daina Donahue, who hadn't brought 4-year-old Rylee and 7-year-old Aiden to the library since school ended.

"If people knew how cold this room is, we'd have half of Norwalk in here," said Librarian Evelyn Cunningham as she began to read a book to Rylee and other children attending the afternoon craft session.

At the time, it was 96 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Heat Index Values varied from 105 to 110 degrees, and an air quality alert had been issued. Later the temperature was ever higher. At 6 p.m., The Weather Channel said it was 101.

Norwalk offers its libraries and the community room at City Hall as cooling centers, with mixed results. Mayor Richard Moccia said that as far as he knew, there had only been two people using the community room for its air conditioning over the last few years. He said it's hard to tell with libraries, as people are reading books.

A research librarian at the main library thought there were more people using the computers Friday afternoon than usual. "If it was 80 degrees instead of 100 degrees, we'd have a lot more empty seats," he said.

Cunningham said there were only half the number of in her craft class. "With vacations and all, you never know what happened," she said. Sherrelle Harris, manager of children's services at the South Norwalk Branch, said it's hit or miss. "It can go either way," she said, adding that a father had popped in to a regular weekly activity that he had signed his kids up for to say that they weren't coming and to get them a book. The family walks to the library.

One of the many adults using the computers upstairs at the South Norwalk branch Friday morning didn't let walking stop him. Bob Douglas said his air conditioner was broken. "I knew this place was cool," he said. He was wearing long sleeves and thought the 20-minute walk was "no problem."

He said summer is almost over. "In August it gets cool at night," he said. "People forget that."

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