2017: A Watershed Year

‘Tis the season to reflect back on the past twelve months and in doing so, I can’t help but be excited about what is going to happen in the coming year(s).

In 2017:

Libraries are stepping up and owning their role as sustainability leaders in their community. In 2009 I started this journey in earnest and I couldn’t be more excited about where the path is leading. I look forward to working with you all to ensure libraries are catalysts for a brighter future for us all.

First-of-its-kind Sustainable Library Certification Program Launched

NYLA Council Approves Sustainable Library Certification Program; Historic Decision Launches First Benchmarking Initiative of Its Kind

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The New York Library Association (NYLA) is proud to announce a one-of-a-kind opportunity for New York’s public libraries to step up as sustainability leaders in their communities: The Sustainable Library Certification Program.

The Council of NYLA approved the program at their August 10, 2017 meeting, on the recommendation of the NYLA Sustainability Initiative Committee (NYLA-SI), to help realize the goals of the Council’s own Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries. That resolution, passed February 6, 2014, articulated the commitment by NYLA to “…enthusiastically encourage activities by its membership – and itself – to be proactive in their application of sustainable thinking in the areas of their facilities, operations, policy, technology, programming and partnerships.”

The Sustainable Library Certification Program’s cutting-edge benchmarking system is designed to help libraries improve their “triple bottom line” as environmental stewards, economically feasible institutions and as community leaders that place great stock in social equity.

“This initiative exemplifies the commitment of NYLA and our member libraries to community leadership,” said Barbara Stripling, President of the New York Library Association. “It is our willingness to take on important issues, and help our communities find solutions, that ensures that libraries will always be an integral part of our communities.”

Organizations that achieve Certification through this program will:

  1. reinforce their roles as leaders in their communities
  2. ensure that sustainability remains part of their library’s process and practice in the future and
  3. receive recognition for their commitment to making their communities more resilient, while making their communities stronger

“NYLA is thrilled to serve as a conduit for this important work, bringing together the efforts and passions of the dedicated members of the Sustainability Initiative,” said Jeremy Johannessen, NYLA Executive Director. “This certification program serves as an important step in ensuring the long-term vitality of the libraries in our state.”

The Committee has worked to create and assess a custom process modeled on what has proven successful in other industries – from the business world (e.g. B Corporation certification), to the world of construction (e.g. Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification), to academia (e.g. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System). This tool fills the void in the library field.

The Sustainable Libraries Certification Program will be the first of its kind in the nation, if not the world. The program is designed to lead a library’s administration, board, and staff through a series of questions and activities that ultimately lead to creating a more sustainable, resilient, and regenerative library that is well positioned to help its community thrive.

Work a library will undertake to strengthen their organizational culture of sustainability through this program will include a variety of activities including an employee survey; policy development; data collection to benchmark resource usage; program design; and outreach efforts in your community. Technical assistance in completing the certification path will be provided.

This program is open to all public libraries in New York. There is a discounted rate structure through the end of 2017 for early adopters. Versions for the academic and school library community are currently in development.

To learn more please visit: www.nyla.org/sustainability

Don’t Let This Moment Pass You By

Don’t Let This Moment Pass You By  |  Rebekkah Smith Aldrich  |  Library Journal  |  July 10, 2017

In the wake of the president’s announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an unprecedented, decentralized groundswell of support to combat climate change in our country has emerged.

Leaders of 125 cities, 13 states, 902 businesses, and 183 colleges and universities have already declared their intent to continue to ensure that the United States remains a global leader in reducing carbon emissions by reaching toward the goal set for us within the Paris Agreement: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 26–28 percent by 2025. Participating cities and states represent 120 million Americans and contribute $6.2 trillion to the U.S. economy. Firms and investors that have declared they are “still in” on the Paris Agreement account for a total revenue of $1.4 trillion and include over 20 Fortune 500 companies, including Apple, eBay, Gap Inc., Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Nike, in addition to hundreds of small concerns.

This is an important moment in history for libraries to pay attention and participate. Not only do we have the chance to shine as we set our own goals to reduce GHGs through our facilities current and future, this is an opportunity to help our municipal leaders understand the powerful role libraries can play to educate Americans about our options for better ways of heating, cooling, and constructing facilities. Our reach, the respect we receive in our communities, and the good examples many of us are already setting perfectly position us… Read the full article here

Zero Waste Event in New York

NYLA-SI Goes Zero Waste

Earlier this year the NYLA Sustainability Initiative Committee gathered at the NYLA headquarters in Guilderland, NY, to debrief from its inaugural year, process feedback received from the library community, and plan for the coming year.

When planning the event we went the extra mile to demonstrate what a “zero-waste” event could look like. A zero-waste event is one that reduces solid waste and captures any  recyclable and compostable materials such as cups, plates, and food scraps that are generated by the event in Zero-Waste stations.

Attendees were encouraged to bring their own refillable and reusable water bottles and their own coffee/tea receptacles. Organizers provided compostable plates, cutlery and several as cups – for those who forgot their water bottles

The event was eye opening from both the organizer and attendee perspective and surprisingly easy to do. It is interesting how small decisions can make a big impact.

Arming the Ramparts

Arming the Ramparts  |  Rebekkah Smith Aldrich  |  Library Journal  |  February 8, 2017

The sustainability of our world depends on a strong social fabric in local communities where people know and respect one another. This social fabric is key for resilient communities in the face of environmental, economic, and social disruption. That fabric is now torn in many places thanks to the vitriol and viciousness of the presidential election and fears about what will happen next… Read the full article here.

Deliberate Resilience

Deliberate Resilience  |  Rebekkah Smith Aldrich  |  Library Journal  |  December 8, 2016

Resilience: to bounce back after disruption. We’ve dealt with a lot of disruption as libraries and citizens in the past year. From a pretty insane presidential race to a major nationwide Internet outage caused by a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that harnessed the Internet of Things to hurricanes, drought, and forest fires, we’ve got disruption in just about every sector of modern life… Read the full article here.

Sustainability Initiative Launches at NYLA2016

nyla_si-logoAfter 14 months of planning, plotting, fundraising, online meetings, phone calls, drafts, laughs and one of the most fulfilling experiences of my career I’m so excited to be on the even of launching the New York Library Association’s Sustainability Initiative (NYLA-SI).


Sustainability at NYLA Conference

Submitted by Jessica Phillipe.

At the annual NYLA Conference this week in Saratoga Springs, the Sustainability Initiative will be sharing much of what we’ve done over the past year to help create more sustainable libraries and stronger communities. For those attending, there is a full-day preconference continuing ed. program on Wednesday, November 2 called Libraries: A Powerful Platform for Change. There are still a few seats available, and you can register onsite! There is also an overview session on Friday morning called, Sustainability Initiative: Where Are We Going?

As part of the Initiative’s efforts to make libraries and communities more resilient, all NYLA attendees will find receive the Roadmap to Sustainability booklet in their conference packet. The Roadmap is a tool to clarify sustainability principles, to get you thinking about where your library is in the sustainability process, and how to move forward to make your library and your community stronger. The Roadmap is printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink, and it’s also available electronically as an app. If you don’t need the Roadmap, just return it to the registration area or to the Sustainability Initiative booth. If you have any questions about the Initiative, visit the booth, or look for the conference attendees wearing an “Agent of Change” button; these are members of the committee excited to share more with you. The booth will have additional roadmaps, more information, and the best raffle baskets around!

For those of you unable to make it to conference, you can catch up with the Sustainability Initiative with this 3-minute video, and after conference, the Roadmaps will be available for $3 on NYLA’s website, or free as a PDF if you sign up for our mailing list. The NYLA Sustainability Initiative is poised to help New York Libraries make groundbreaking changes to their institutions and communities. If you would like to support the excellent work of the committee, you can donate here. For more info or to get involved, contact Rebekkah Smith Aldrich or Matt Bollerman.

Cover for the Roadmap to Sustainability.