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Theft of A/C unit ‘terrible’ for impoverished Robbins library

PriscillCoatney Robbins Public Library Director conducts Library business inside hot Library building with help two moving fans Wednesday afternoon. The

Priscilla Coatney, Robbins Public Library Director, conducts Library business inside a hot Library building with the help of two moving fans Wednesday afternoon. The Library is offering a $1,000 reward for the return of their stolen interior metal parts from the Air Conditioner unit. July 11, 2012 | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 13, 2012 1:51PM

The public library in Robbins has faced dire times in recent years, so the theft of a $10,000 air conditioning unit last week was more than just a financial blow.

Not long ago, the library’s existence was in doubt, with so many people who live in the south suburb of about 6,600 out of work and unable to pay property taxes, which are a major source of library funding.

Federal and state grants, and gifts from the community — including a $25,000 check from Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, a Robbins native — have kept the doors open.

Now, the William Leonard Public Library District has to contend with another challenge. Late last week, someone climbed onto the roof of the library at 13820 Central Park and dismantled and stole the HVAC unit.

That left the library — which conducts summer kids’ programs, adult literacy and computer programs and serves as a cooling center — without air conditioning. It will probably cost more than $10,000 to replace the A/C unit, according to library administrator Priscilla Coatney, who said, “This is terrible.”

“We opened late on Friday, at 3 p.m.,” she said Wednesday.

It was warm inside.

“We thought it was because [the air conditioner] was broken,” Coatney said.

Coatney and her husband were outside the building, looking at the roof, when her husband pointed out the air conditioning unit had been taken apart and its housing was laid out on the roof, all working parts gone.

“Our repairman said he imagined they were up there a couple hours,” Coatney said. “They took everything except for the outside part. The heating element, the cooling, the condenser ... the wires were cut. What kind of mind would do that?”

The stolen air conditioner “is a commercial unit that cools over 5,000 square feet,” she said. “This is devastating.”

On Tuesday, she bought four fans to cool the library until the A/C is replaced. The building doesn’t have windows that can be opened.

“We are insured, but we have a deductible to pay,” Coatney said. “We were in dire financial straits. We’ve been able to hang on, but it’s been difficult. I don’t have money for a deductible.”

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