ALA Council Overwhelmingly Passes Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries!

On Sunday, June 28th, 2015 at the American Library Association (ALA) Conference in San Francisco (CA) the governing body of ALA, Council, overwhelmingly passed the Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries*.

Based on a similar resolution passed by the New York Library Association, members of the ALA Sustainable Roundtable (SustainRT) took the resolution to a new level to present nationally at the June 4th ALA Virtual Membership Meeting. This was the first resolution successfully passed in this venue with over 300 members voting yes to move the resolution before Council at the 2015 Annual Conference.

The passage of the resolution is an important moment in ALA history. It is the declaration of a professional association to make a concerted effort in practice and policy to consider the implications and messages of the choices we make – both nationally and locally.

I can’t wait to see what happens next!

*Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries

Whereas our communities are faced with economic, environmental and societal changes that are of great concern to our quality of life;

Whereas libraries are uniquely positioned and essential to build the capacity of the communities they serve to become sustainable, resilient and regenerative;

Whereas library leaders, and those who inspire future library leaders, have a mandate to ensure future access to economical library services;

Whereas libraries that demonstrate good stewardship of the resources entrusted to them can build community support that leads to sustainable funding;

Whereas the people who work in our libraries and those who access services in our facilities deserve a healthy environment in which to do so;

Whereas the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has determined that: “Human influence on the climate system is clear… Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems”1;

Whereas the American Library Association has acknowledged in its 2015 Strategic Plan that “Libraries are widely recognized as key players in economic development, in building strong and vibrant communities, and in sustaining a strong democracy” and launched the ALA Center for Civic Life (CCL) in 2010 in conjunction with the Kettering Foundation to promote community engagement and foster public deliberation through libraries; and

Whereas libraries that demonstrate leadership in making sustainable decisions that positively address climate change, respect and use natural resources, and create healthy indoor and outdoor environments will stabilize and reduce their long-term energy costs, help build more sustainable communities, and thereby increase community support for the library; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA) on behalf of its members:

  1. recognizes the important and unique role libraries play in wider community conversations about resiliency, climate change, and a sustainable future and begins a new era of thinking sustainably in order to consider the economic, environmental and socially equitable viability of choices made on behalf of the association;
  2. enthusiastically encourages activities by itself, its membership, library schools and state associations to be proactive in their application of sustainable thinking in the areas of their facilities, operations, policy, technology, programming, partnerships and library school curricula; and
  3. directs the ALA Executive Director to pursue sustainable choices when planning conferences and meetings and to actively promote best practices of sustainability through ALA publications, research and educational opportunities to reach our shared goal of vital, visible and viable libraries for the future.


Integrated Building Design Article in LJ

Super excited that my article about Integrated Building Design (IBD), “A Whole Systems Approach: Integrated Building Design,” is in the current issue of Library Journal!!

Rebecca T. Miller, Executive Editor @LJ, had asked me to write this article last year after the LJ Design Institute in South Carolina. I had insisted on asking the panels I moderated about IBD and got a mixed bag of responses from panelists but Rebecca was interested in hearing more.

Writing the article gave me an excellent excuse to talk to some amazing people:

-Victor Canseco, LEED AP and Principal at Sandpebble Builders, Inc. from Southampton, NY: Victor is passionate in an old school way about integrated building design. Speaking with a builder was fantastic as I usually don’t get face time with that side of a project. He really drove home how feasible IBD is and how smart it is for publicly funded projects. Plus I think he’s a pretty fabulous human being as well so there’s that…looking forward to presenting with Victor and his colleagues at the 2011 New York Library Association Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY!

-Amanda Aspenson, LEED AP and Designer with Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. out of Minneapolis, MN let me talk her ear off! We totally geeked out about IBD and I so appreciated her energy and enthusiasm around the topic. Amanda worked on the IPD Case Studies document cited in the article which I think is inspiring and really gives one the sense that IBD is doable for libraries of all shapes and sizes. Big thank you to Mr. Jeffrey Scherer, founding principal at MSR for connecting me with Amanda! *(P.S. Looking forward to presenting with Jeffrey at the PLA & ALA Conferences in 2012!! More on that soon!)

-Rick McCarthy, a principal architect with PSA-Dewberry, based in Elgin, IL, is not only a library architect but a library trustee which brings a really special angle to the conversation of stakeholder intersections. Rick’s long standing support of sustainably designed buildings is another stroke of luck for me in writing this article.

-David Moore, senior project architect at McMillan Pazdan Smith, based in Greenville, SC was the first person I interviewed and probably one of the most pragmatic people I’ve met. His real world wrangling of library projects with a host of complications and fairly fantastic outcomes was very useful to draw on as I got started writing the article.

I’m relieved the article is finally out there. I can’t wait to hear the feedback. I’m hoping a few brave souls out there give IBD a try for their projects. If there is anyone out there who wants to talk more about this just let me know, I’m very intrigued by the potential of IBD (if you haven’t already picked up on that…) and excited to see some libraries give it a go!

Tipping Point?

So Earth Day 2011… less fanfare perhaps than for the 40th anniversary in 2010 but a milestone nonetheless. I’m declaring a milestone because “the profession” seems to be finally acknowledging that sustainable library buildings are here to stay.

Here are the two big examples:

  1. Cover of March/April 2011 issue of American Libraries declares: “Stairway to Sustainability” and features 19 library projects in the annual showcase that best exemplify sustainable building features and/or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
  2. The State of America’s Libraries, 2011 Report kicks off the section on Library Construction and Renovation by noting the ever increasing number of libraries pursuing sustainable features and LEED certification. (They feature the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, NY which, you may recall, I featured in my Sustainable Restoration of Historic Buildings presentation last fall to the Upstate NY Chapter of the USGBC):

In 2010, eight of the 85 submissions to American Libraries’ annual Library Design Showcase were certified under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council; in 2001, only eight buildings—of any type—had been LEED-certified. Another 11 libraries were actively seeking certification.

Notice they mention the number eight twice in the quote above? Well here’s another “eight” for you: For those of you who follow Sustainable Libraries on Facebook, you know this already… but for everyone else… Last month alone I reported on eight libraries with a significant sustainable features (solar, geothermal, green roof) or with LEED certification.

Pretty exciting eh?


Crandall Public Library Folklife Center

I recently visited the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, NY. I was lucky enough to get a tour of the facility from their director, Christine McDonald. The greatly expanded library was LEED certified in early 2010 and I was looking to learn more about their building as it is the only LEED library project in NY, that I’m aware of, that included a renovation to a historic structure as well as a newly constructed addition.

The library boasts a daylight harvesting system (that works!), curtain walls, low-VOC paints, carpets and finishes, and a white roof but what really caught my eye was their Folklife Center.

Crandall’s Center for Folklife, History & Cultural Programs is housed in the basement but is immediately accessible down a lovely staircase visible from the main entrance. The Center offers:

  • General Tours
  • Archival Treasure Hunts
  • Guess What I Collect
  • Folk Artist Residencies
  • Tape Recorded Interviews
  • Photograph Your World
  • Book Boxes
  • Women’s History
  • Essay Contest
  • Genealogy Workshops

What I really like about this program area in a public library is the tie in to the commitment this library has made to its community to be a sustainable organization. The idea that the library has devoted so much space to the preservation and continuing education about a way of life, a way of life that celebrates nature and crafts in the Adirondacks, is a strong message of valuing the natural world that dovetails so nicely with the library’s LEED building.

Just as Louise Schaper had done at Fayettville, continuing their commitment to a sustainable facility into their day-to-day operations, Crandall has created a sustainability thread into services and programs. This reinforces the whole idea of sustainability or the “capacity to endure,” which really encourages the public to consider what came before them and what will be left for future generations.

Louise & the Eco Machine

Can’t resist sharing my good luck, this past week I finally had a chance to check out the Omega Institute’s Eco Machine. An Eco Machine is a natural wastewater treatment system. Omega’s plan is to use the resulting graywater to irrigate gardens and flush toilets.

Omega is a pretty fascinating place all around, but their Center for Sustainable Living is pretty remarkable, they are expected to be the first building in the United States to receive the Living Building designation in addition to receiving LEED Platinum certification. Some highlights:

  • wastewater turns to greywater within 36 hours through constructed wetlands
  • 20 geothermal wells
  • concrete that complies with the Living Building Challenge’s Red List*
  • net metering from solar array
  • partial green roof
  • No PVC
  • plywood in mechanical room from Obama’s inauguration stage!

To top it off I got to meet Louise Schaper who traveled to New York (coming all the way from Arkansas) to visit family and added a stop into Omega to check out the Eco Machine with me. Not quite sure which I was more excited about!

*LBC Red List (The project cannot contain any of the following red list materials or chemicals.):

No added formaldehyde
Halogenated Flame Retardants18
Neoprene (chloroprene)
Chlorinated Polyethylene and Chlorosulfonated Polyethlene21
Wood treatments containing Creosote, Arsenic or Pentachlorophenol

ChargePoint America

ChargePoint America is a program sponsored by Coulomb Technologies to provide electric vehicle charging infrastructure to nine selected regions in the United States. The is made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Transportation Electrification Initiative administered by the Department of Energy and the objective is to accelerate the development and production of electric vehicles to substantially reduce petroleum consumption, reduce greenhouse gas production, and create jobs.”

9 program regions:

  • Bellevue-Redmond, WA
  • Sacramento, CA
  • San Jose-San Francisco Bay Area
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Austin, TX
  • Detroit, MI
  • New York City, NY
  • Washington D.C.
  • Orlando, FL

“Charge It”

The June 7-June 13, 2010 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek had an article called “A New Meaning for the Phrase “Charge It” alerting the business community to the demands electric cars will have for power:

“Two chargers are needed for each car” – one at home and one at work.”

There’s an iPhone app for drivers of electric cars to locate chargers.

People are reporting “range anxiety” – the fear of being stranded with drained batteries.

As President Obama and the car industry march forward with the push for lessening America’s reliance on foreign oil more and more drivers will be looking for a place to “charge it.”

What if public libraries across the country became known for having charging stations? Not a bad marketing idea eh?

If you are lucky enough to be planning a new building, major expansion or just redoing your parking lot consider integrating a charging station into your plans, your community may (eventually) thank you!

Onondaga Follow up

Back from Syracuse and thinking hard about two issues that came up after the Greening presentation at the Onondaga County Public Library staff development day – green roofs and the Energy Star program.

I’ve been pondering my answers to two questions that were asked from the group after my presentation, I don’t think I answered either of them as thoroughly as I should have.

The first was asking me to clarify my stance on green roofs in the Northeast – my perception has been it’s not a great fit.  I answered quickly but realized I should revisit my opinion after a representative from Onondaga County spoke and said they are widely installing green roofs – they must have researched this thoroughly so I’ll be looking in to this more to understand that.

The other comment/question that got me thinking was an astute staff person who had been following the stories surrounding the Energy Star program – revelations that it is not as thorough a rating/standard program as it should be.

Over the course of the next week I’ll post more about these two items.

Overall the feedback I received after the presentation was pretty good. Many people had a spark in their eye as they asked questions about lighting, windows, recycling and purchasing. Others seemed apprehensive about costs and how to move forward with the whole “green team” idea that I shared. Regardless, people were thinking and that’s always a good thing!

Probably not presenting again until the fall between our trip to France coming up at the end of this month, a new executive director starting at MHLS in July and the massive overhaul of our web site at work. I’m looking forward to the chance to sit back and refine my presentation and get up to speed on some things (like green roofs!) that maybe my knowledge is aging on. It’s amazing how fast green technologies are developing and evolving. It’s exciting!