Green Revolution in libraries?

If asked how libraries – public or academic – contribute to society, every librarian likely has a mental list available at the ready: libraries stimulate our children; libraries provide valuable public services, like resume-building or ESL classes; libraries bring people together, by hosting poetry readings or ex-pat societies or after-school clubs; libraries, by the nature of the very resources they house and supply, educate those who use them. Would you have thought to include “save the environment” on that list?

In “Leading the Green Revolution,” an article published by American Libraries magazine on November 1, 2017, author Liz Granger introduces the reader to eco-friendly programs instituted at the Michigan State University library, the Austin Public LibraryTwin Oaks branch, the Berkeley Public LibraryWest branch, and the Mason City (Iowa) Public Library.

The Twin Oaks branch of the Austin Public Library changed its water-thirsty landscaping over to more drought-friendly native xeriscaping, sunk cisterns to collect rainwater, and installed a computer system to help monitor weather patterns and conserve every last drop of available water – even condensation off the HVAC units! Berkeley, in what can only be described as “typical” given the reputation of the city and its inhabitants, went whole hog; the library is a “net zero energy” building and contributes to the energy grid, rather than draw off it, through the use of solar panels, a wind chamber, and other eco-friendly additions. Even Mason City, Iowa (population 28,079) worked installed solar panels. Though prompted by budget concerns, and aided by a private investor to help the city qualify for tax rebates, the panels were fully on board by 2016 and the city reduced its oil and gas energy dependence by 38% from 2008 levels.

Over the past few years, WPLLA’s academic law library members have described significant reductions to bound-volume collections. Though the Michigan State libraries described a number of innovative environmental practices, their sustainability measures regarding deaccessioning books stood out in light of recent WPLLA conversations. Specifically, the MSU library partnered with the University’s “surplus store” and offered the volumes available for sale to the public. The article notes that the Surplus Store has sold $150,000 of deaccessioned books, and the library and store work together to recycle any unsold texts.

Check out the “Green Your Library” section towards the end of the article. It offers several talking points to help librarians interested in pursuing eco-friendly programs for their libraries make a sound case to administrators or boards of directors.

Have any WPLLA members initiated “green” or “eco” programs with their libraries? Feel free to share your experience in the comments or email a WPLLA board member. We’d love to write a follow-up post!


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