Sustainable Thinking: Passageways to Better Buildings, Budgets & Beyond

2012 ALA Conference in Anaheim, CAThe countdown to the 2012 American Library Association Conference in Anaheim, CA has begun!

On the morning of Monday, June 25th I will be presenting with Jeffrey Scherer, architect extraordinaire, and Susan Benton, CEO of the Urban Libraries Council. Our topic: Sustainable Thinking: Passageways to Better Buildings, Budgets & Beyond.

In spirit, Louise Schaper will also be with us. She is an original member of our panel that will not be able to make it out to California but she is a driving force behind the content that will be presented.

We will be talking about the importance of thinking sustainably throughout your organization, not just when it comes to your facility.

This morning I spent some time working on the presentation. I’ll be handling Louise’s content as well as my own so wanted to get more familiar with her slides. Very struck by how well Louise can articulate the importance of “walking the walk” not just “talking the talk.” She provides excellent examples of how to infuse the ideals of sustainability throughout the culture of the library as an organization that I’m excited to have the opportunity to talk about at ALA this year!

As always, I am looking forward to connecting in-person with so many of you I get to talk with online through this web site, the Sustainable Libraries Facebook page and the Sustainable Librarians Group on LinkedIn. Please come up and introduce yourself! The more of us who know each other the more we can accomplish for the profession!

Sustainable Libraries on Pinterest

In the never ending quest to keep up online I checked out Pinterest and pretty quickly got sucked in.

It completely speaks to my librarian brain to start saving and classifying all the great graphics and photos I come across online!

I’ve got a couple of boards going that I thought would be of interest to fans of Sustainable Libraries:


Solar FTW

Living Walls

and of course… Trees

Check it out and follow my boards so we can find new ways to waste time together! ;-)


Library as Partner in Creating Curriculum for Sustainability

For Academic Libraries & Information Studies Schools, on behalf of Bonnie J. Smith, University of Florida:

Library as Partner in Creating Curriculum for Sustainability

“Colleagues, Please accept this invitation to participate in the Library as Partner in Creating Curriculum for Sustainability survey. This survey explores the level of engagement of academic libraries and information studies schools in the emerging focus of educating for sustainability on university and college campuses across North America. The expected benefits associated with your involvement include creating a better understanding of the role of libraries in educating for sustainability and may also reveal some opportunities for further research. We anticipate the survey will take 10-20 minutes to complete. There are no foreseeable risks associated with this survey. The confidentiality of your responses will be protected. Please share this survey with colleagues in academic libraries and LIS schools. All responses are welcome and valuable. The survey closes on May 2, 2012. Click here to take the survey. With much appreciation, Bonnie J. Smith – University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries Maria A. Jankowska – UCLA, Charles E. Young Research Library Marianne A. Buehler – University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries”

Happy Earth Day 2012!

Easy Activism:

  • Six Words for the Planet: SMITH Magazine and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency present “Six Words for the Planet.” Share your six words to celebrate the environment, share your concerns, and talk about the planet. EPA will feature some submissions on, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. And your Six Words for the Planet will be considered for a future book, calendar and more.
  • Picnic for the Planet: Picnic for the Planet is a celebration of the planet we live on, the food it provides and the people we share it with. In short it, the planet does a lot for us, we should take it out for lunch. On and around Earth Day 2012 (April 22), people all around the world will be stepping outside and heading to their favorite outdoor spot to enjoy good food in the company of great people.
  • Michael, Michael, Go Recycle! Fun online game for kids (and adults!) Find more consciousness awareness raising games here.
  • Pick 5 for the Environment [EPA]: Environmental action means taking the simple steps in the different places where we all live. By choosing five or more of these ideas and sharing your own, you are joining thousands of others who are doing the same! Make your actions count today!
  • Celebrate Earth Day in Super High Resolution [WIRED Magazine]



Shipping Containers are Clever

Buildings made out of shipping containers? Yep. I’m in love with this idea, here are two library examples:

BiebBus (via GreenDiary):

BiebBus is a mobile library that has been specifically built to squeeze in narrow streets and to attract children and consequently inculcate the value of reading in them.

BiebBus is actually a shipping container that can pop-up and create two levels in the library. The lower level houses all the books and even though it looks like a tight fit, 20 people can stand around the 100 meter book shelf that is home to over 7000 books. The upper level is where children can sit, and read the books. To make it fun, the floor is made of glass – not just simple glass, but a a sort of magnifying glass which makes the kid look bigger. There are huge windows on the upper level so that there is enough natural light and the inquisitive ones can look outside. Cool lights and bean-bags complete the “reading-space”. 35-40 children can sit comfortably and lost themselves in the written word.”

The Contertainer (via Inhabitat):

“The Contertainer is a poly-clinic and public library designed by Indonesian firm, dpavilion architects, that repurposes these adventurous vessels to house books, which serve as “windows” to the world at large. The name for the health clinic and public libraryis an amalgam of two words: container and entertainer, which reflects its goal of providing a better quality of living for those who have little money.”


Crowd Funding

What could you do with a bit more money? Have a project idea? Get investors.

I’m in the midst of a cool experience thanks to Kickstarter. I was transfixed by the “People’s Library” that sprouted up during the Occupy Wall Street movement. So much so that when I heard someone wanted to create a book about the phenomenon I followed a Facebook post from a friend that led me to the opportunity to be a part of the creation of the book, as an investor. I ponied up along with 282 other people to make this possibility a reality.

I believed in this project, I thought it was a good idea and I wanted to help.

I bet many people feel that way about things you’d like to do at your library, they just don’t know about your plans.

Earth Day 2012

I know Earth Day happens every year yet every year I forget to spread the word until it is virtually too late for libraries to plan events and get the word out (in 2010 I posted the day before Earth Day and I’m pretty sure 2011′s post was after Earth day…) Well not this year!

Earth Day is an annual event held to raise awareness and promote action. There are literally thousands of events held world wide to exemplify the commitment communities, cities and countries have to making the earth healthier.

In some communities libraries not only participate in Earth Day events and activities but lead them as well.

Last year I picked up on the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library’s Green Fair: “get your green on!” Love it.

TSCPL  brought 20 community organizations together, they challenged the community to come up with 150 Green Ideas, the first 200 attendees at the fair received a free lilac bush, there were demonstrations by master gardeners and energy conservationists, a soil tunnel, gigantic wind generator propeller, live music, eo-crafts for the kids, and animals – including the humane society who brought pets for adoption. (I don’t even know what a soil tunnel is! I must learn more!)

The library provided a bit of reader/watcher advisory as well (GREAT list of books and movies to promote at your library as well!)

The library published a “Green Report Card” on itself prior to the event to show they had a serious commitment to the issues: “Does the library practice what we preach – I mean aside from being Topeka’s No. 1 book recycler?”

This wasn’t just an Earth Day celebration. It was an expression of the library’s role in the community as educator, collaborator, partner and leader.

Now while the TSCPL event may sound a bit bigger than you were thinking, no worries. There is a whole spectrum of ideas out there from small to large to choose from, here are just a few.

  • Check around the community to see what other organizations, agencies or government entities are thinking about for an Earth Day celebration. Don’t assume no one else is thinking about this! Joining forces will have a bigger impact and attract an larger audience.
  • Displays in the library could include books and movies on a variety of subjects: gardening, energy conservation, passive design, solar, sustainable food production: caning, pickling, fermentation, enjoying the outdoors, land conservancy, water conservancy, edible flowers, recycling, reusing, reducing…
  • Programs throughout April could carry a “green theme” – at story time, adult book discussions, teen advisory group, etc. in addition to inviting in speakers who specialize in “green” areas.
  • Sponsor a recycling drive for electronics
  • Challenge your staff to find ways to reduce electricity, water and paper goods consumption in the library.
  • Sponsor or participate in a community “clean up” event in a local park, along a highway or waterway.
  • Plant some trees
  • Hungry for more ideas? Check out my post from 2010, 40 Ideas for the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day

Pledge your activities, encourage your patrons to do the same and advertise your commitment to The Earth Day Network’s “billion acts of green” through the library!

Earth Day 2012 is on Sunday, April 22. But feel free to celebrate for the whole month of April or year round!


Proper Gadget Disposal

Librarians are a tech-saturated lot. My friends with the most gadgets, who are the most tech savvy are librarians (with an honorable mention to my non-librarian husband!). In the past two years I’ve seen an interesting (and wonderful) trend in my library system – patrons are seeking out help with their gadgets at the library. eBooks, smartphones and tablets are being brought in under the guise of “how do I download an eBook on this thing?” and the next thing you know, library staff are assisting with basic functionality issues with the device.

It is part of our professional know-how landscape to be up on these gadgets and to understand how to provide online library services in gadget friendly ways. However, as exciting as these times may be we have an environmental stewardship issue here that we can help impact.

The rate at which new versions of each gadget are released is causing a significant amount of device turnover. Some people trade up for newer versions, some are just tossing the old for the new.

Innovation and deflation are the watchwords of the consumer electronics industry. Even as the latest designs and technologies are released to the market, improvements are already being planned or manufactured. That innovation lowers costs is most spectacularly seen in this industry. As electronic gadgets become more sophisticated, they actually fall in price, instead of rising. This results in users upgrading their gadgets every few years or multiple times in a single year. What happens to the old gadgets is becoming a serious problem as the years pass. [The Gadgets Blog, June 2011]

The amount of e-waste generated in this world is staggering (US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • Over 3 million tons of e-waste is generated each year
  • The vast majority (82.3%) of e-waste discarded in the U.S.  is still ending up in our landfills and incinerators
  • 17.7 percent  of e-waste goes to recyclers

Electronics typically contain many toxic chemicals,  like lead, mercury, beryllium, cadmium, arsenic, and halogenated flame retardants in the plastics. These can seep into our water supply when they breakdown in landfills, particularly in older landfills with no lining. When they end up in in an incinerator these chemicals are being released into our atmosphere.

Our personal first step is to question our true need of each gadget before purchasing items for ourselves (as evidenced by comments to the shared link, “Ditch these 10 Devices in 2012,” on Sustainable Libraries’ Facebook page) but after the almost inevitable purchase of at least one device we will reach the end point of that gadgets’ useful life – either in its usefulness to our lives or in its functional capacity.

Product Stewardship
Look into whether or not your state has passed legislation related to “product stewardship,” or “takeback programs.” Here are some well known takeback and e-recycling programs:

If you don’t have one of the big electronics retailers near you or your device’s manufacturer doesn’t offer a takeback or recycling program call your municipal or county’s solid waste management department. Often they will host events to manage recycling e-waste as a community.

Beware e-recyclers visiting your town: do your homework. 60 Minutes did a great story a few years ago on how some recyclers just ship e-waste overseas where it is not properly handled and is polluting water, soil and air in those countries. Check out Basel Action Network’s e-Stewards program and ask the recycling hauler coming to your town if they are a “Certified e-Steward Recycler.”

If you’ve taken the time to do this research, share it with your community, campus and school!



Solar, Solar, Everywhere…

There were a bunch of exciting stories in 2011 about advancements in solar energy (solar shingles for your roof!) I thought I’d share one that I keep thinking about, MIT’s announcement last July that it is possible to produce photovoltaic cells on paper or fabric, nearly as simply as printing a document.

“… paper solar cells could be made into window shades or wallpaper — and paper costs one-thousandth as much as glass for a given area, the researchers say.”

Flexible, foldable, bendable… solar. Amazing.