Reopening your library? Ensure the HVAC system can provide the safest air possible

By Jeff Oke 

Like other facilities, libraries across the U.S. are beginning to reopen to the public as COVID-19 vaccinations continue to expand and state and local restrictions are eased. After more than a year of being shut down, however, owners need to ensure their mechanical infrastructure is operating correctly and that certain measures are in place to help mitigate the transmission of airborne virus particles 

Several key actions for proper HVAC system operation include: 

  • Confirm that the HVAC system is operating during library hours, the air handling units have clean filters installed, and the outdoor air dampers are operating properly to introduce fresh air into the air stream.  
  • Check the outdoor air intake. Consider having a test and balance company measure the amount of outdoor air to ensure the air handling unit is bringing in the intended amount of fresh air. In addition, confirm that the outdoor air handling unit’s economizer mode is operating properly. This allows the unit to bring in more fresh air during periods of ideal outdoor air conditions.  
  • Evaluate the number of hours the system operates. To improve dilution, consider operating the HVAC system beyond the library’s open hours to increase the amount of fresh air introduced to the building.  
  • Consider other ways to increase fresh outdoor air. This could include:  
    • Opening operable windows during ideal ambient conditions 
    • Increasing the percentage of outdoor air for the HVAC system 
    • Moving large gatherings outdoors 
    • Reducing dense gatherings 
    • Disabling demandcontrolled ventilation 
    • Upgrade the efficiency of the filtration system to provide cleaner indoor air.  
    • Maintain strong sanitation protocols. This can be done by cleaning hightouch surfaces, promoting social distancing and standard COVID protocols, and providing personal hygiene products throughout the facility.  
    • Investigate additional solutions. Technologies that can mitigate the spread of airborne virus particles include ultraviolet lights to kill viruses, inroom HEPA filtration systems, and needle point/bipolar ionization. 

By being proactive, library owners can provide a safer environment for their patrons, helping to ensure not only their physical well-being but also providing peace of mind for all. 

Jeff Oke will present “Reopening the Library: Ventilation and Air Circulation Considerations,” a free webinar hosted by Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) at 10 a.m. Central time April 20. Learn more and register. 

Categories: COVID-19 | Education | Government