Sustainability at the library

Libraries are going green. Considering how many other organizations are going green these days that is not exactly startling news. But libraries are not like other organizations. They have a unique role in informing and inspiring their patrons. Sustainability becomes part of their mission in two ways. Administratively, they choose how to go green with their building and practices. They also put up displays, host workshops, and otherwise educate their patrons to think more about sustainability.

Here is a sample of projects over the past couple of years that libraries have used go green and help their patrons go green, too. Before you look at it, you should know that libraries generally do not keep the book jackets that publishers put on hardcover books. Also, they must “weed” old books that no one borrows or consults any more from their collection. Although they often try to sell these books, they still have to get rid of the ones no one buys.

at the library

A book bookshelf. Just one of the clever things that can be made of old books!

  • New library buildings designed on LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) are becoming more and more common.
  • The Pleasanton (California) Public Library building, built in 1988, supplies abundant natural light with large windows and skylights, yet the design of the electrical system did not allow staff to dim or turn off electric lights when they weren’t needed. So it recently replaced the old lighting system with a new one. That change alone reduced the building’s energy usage by 46%.
  • The Rifle Branch of the Garfield County Library in Colorado has a parking lot with special areas for fuel efficient cars and for plugging in electric vehicles. Being in Colorado, the lot is also horse-friendly.
  • The educational program of libraries now routinely includes workshops and classes on sustainability.
  • The library at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro designed and distributed a book mark that not only publicized a sustainability workshop, but also listed other energy-saving and money saving tips from asking professors to allow electronic submission of term papers to climbing the steps in the library tower for exercise.
  • A staff member at one library learned how to make gift bags from book jackets and then made a presentation at The Green Paraprofessional Conference, hosted by East Carolina University Libraries in 2009, to teach others how to recycle their jackets in this way.
  • It doesn’t appear that a librarian came up with the idea of making furniture from old books, but Going Green @ Your Library posted a couple of pictures. I hope some libraries have taken up the idea. They’d be more likely to sell furniture made of old books than from trying to sell the books themselves!

I have certainly enjoyed writing a post that combines two of my passions, libraries and sustainability. If you, too, are passionate about both, or even just interested in both, be sure to read one of my other blogs, Sustainable Future, Green Homes.

Sources: Going Green @ Your Library
American Libraries
Photo credit: Inhabit.com, found in the Going Green @ Your Library post Recycle Books Into Furniture

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