All In a Day's Work Chris Ducko

Chris Ducko is as modest as his office is unassuming, a space that belies its importance as central control for the high tech computer-directed system that keeps the Princeton Public Library's new building at just the right temperature and humidity. Mr. Ducko is the Library's behind-the-scenes genie who's always on call and hard to pin down. He makes sure that the Library's burgeoning events schedule is supported with audio visual technology and he's in charge of monitoring security, phones, everything from a serious water leak in the heating system to a small (ahem) water leak on the children's floor. Even after hours, he's keeping an eye on things from his computer at home.

Mr. Ducko is clearly in his element with all things technical and has an instinct for the building's innards of pipes and gauges. Although he can monitor all systems from the computers in his office, he pops up to the library's fourth floor "penthouse" several times a day to listen to the machine and eyeball the temperature and pressure gauges.

A man who is always on the go, rarely having time to sit down for lunch, Mr. Ducko has been Building Manager at the Library for just a little over two years. In that short time, he's made his mark. Library Director Leslie Burger has described him in one word: indispensable. Here, he speaks about his work and the pride he felt on the first day patrons poured into the new building.

—Linda Arntzenius

When I started at the Library on April 4, 2004, just a few weeks before the opening, there were still little odds and ends to be completed. Once the contractors were finished, everything had to be moved in and the computers set up. It was an impressive team effort, everybody chipped in, working round the clock to get ready for the opening. The first day was great—shock and awe from the people of Princeton! It was an eye opener for me. Everybody loved the space and all the work paid off. It was a proud moment.

Before that I worked 15 years as building manager for a company in Lawrence-ville, and before that I was a millwright for ten years with Marshall Maintenance in Trenton.

Here I take care of the heating, air conditioning, plumbing, electrical, and lighting systems. I work with Facilities Assistant Sherwood Brown and there are three after-hours building monitors that are my eyes and ears when I'm not here. I have the ability to dial in and check the security cameras and the a/c system from home. I can regulate the temperature throughout the building and see if the air-handler, the boiler, or the air conditioner is shut down. If something goes wrong that the building monitor can't take care of, I come in.

That has happened. During heavy rains the storm drain would back up into a condensate trap, which would spill over into the first floor wiring closet. I talked with some of the engineers. We had different ideas as to how to address the problem. We wound up doing it ourselves. It's fixed.


Usually in a brand new building there are a lot of things that go wrong in the first two years. I was impressed that there weren't too many. There are a few things that I would have done differently but the building was put together well. Most of the work is quality work. I am also impressed by the fact that we have fully functional windows. That's rare in new buildings with controlled environments. That was a good idea.

You never know what's going to happen with high maintenance high tech. A board will short out on one of the lighting panels occasionally. You'd think this wouldn't happen with a newer piece of equipment but anything can happen with electrical products.

My biggest challenge is the operation of the Meco window shades on the Witherspoon side of the building. These adjust automatically according to the position of the sun and are controlled by three photo sensors on the roof. They cut down on glare and provide a solar block that improves the efficiency of the air conditioning system. They're a good idea in theory but in practice there's about a 15-minute delay between the signal and the shades being activated. I can override the system and operate the shades independently. I'm the only one who can do this. Nobody else can fool with them.

Typical Day?

In my job there's never a typical day. I touch everything from top to bottom, from basic plunging of a toilet to troubleshooting an electrical problem in a lighting panel. I try to maintain a safe, clean, comfortable and economical atmosphere for patrons.

It's important to make sure that heating or cooling comes on at the appropriate time so that it's comfortable for patrons. After hours, after the cleaners leave, all the lighting gets shut down except for emergency lighting. First thing in the morning when I come in, I'll turn the desk lamps on until staff start coming in. Then I'll turn on the night lighting until about half an hour before the library opens and all the lights go on. Every little bit helps.

I also set up for meetings and events in the community room and take bookings for that and the second floor conference room. These are rented out to Borough and Township non-profit organizations at a nominal fee for meetings of 15 to 150 people. I stay for some of the events to make sure that everything runs well, to make sure, for example, that the audio went well for the James McBride event. A lot of effort went into the Bryan Singer event, but it was a great event. Barbara Johnson brought the trailer for the new movie Superman Returns. She's a friend of the library and a wonderful person.

I don't get to too many movies. My wife, Lucy and I don't have too much spare time. She's office manager with Hopewell Presbyterian Church. We live in Leavittown, Pennsylvania. My three boys play ice hockey all year round. Andrew is 18, Evan is 13, and Jordan is 11. Andrew is going to be playing with the Syracuse Stars. Evan and Jordan play travel hockey plus squad. We like to go fishing and take the boat out. Occasionally I like to do some golfing, when I can.

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