New York Library Association’s Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries

Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries passed at the February 6, 2014 New York Library Association (NYLA) Council Meeting!

Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries

Whereas, libraries are essential to the communities they serve; and

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

Whereas, libraries that demonstrate good stewardship of the resources entrusted to them can build their base of support in their communities which leads to sustainable funding; and

Whereas, the scientific community has clearly communicated that current trends in climate change are of great concern to all; and

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

Whereas, libraries who demonstrate leadership in making sustainable decisions that help to positively address climate change, respect natural resources and create healthy indoor and outdoor environments will stabilize and reduce their long-term energy costs, increase the support for the library in their community; and reveal new sources of funding; therefore be it

Resolved, that the New York Library Association, on behalf of its members, recognizes the important role libraries can play in larger community conversations about resiliency, climate change, and a sustainable future; and be it further

Resolved, that the New York Library Association enthusiastically encourages 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.

Drafted for consideration by
Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, NYLA Councilor-at-Large
Coordinator for Library Sustainability
Mid-Hudson Library System
103 Market Street, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

Adopted by NYLA Council, February 6, 2014

And a shout out to past-NYLA president and all-around sustainability champion and good guy Matthew Bollerman, director of the Hauppauge Public Library, for helping me wordsmith the resolution!

Risking “Catastrophic Disruption”

The New York Times has reported on the draft of a new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a panel of climate experts that won the Nobel Peace Prize), here’s the hook: “Nations have so dragged their feet in battling climate change that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising, according to a draft United Nations report.”

The first segment of this report, published in September, found a 95 percent or greater likelihood that humans are the main cause of climate change.

From the report:

  • Governments of the world were still spending “far more money to subsidize fossil fuels than to accelerate the shift to cleaner energy, thus encouraging continued investment in projects like coal-burning power plants that pose a long-term climate risk.”
  • “…the political willingness to tackle climate change is growing in many countries and new policies are spreading, but the report said these were essentially being outrun by the rapid growth of fossil fuels.”
  • “…the real question is whether to take some economic pain now, or more later.”
  • “Nations have agreed to try to limit the warming of the planet to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. Even though it will be exceedingly difficult to meet, this target would still mean vast ecological and economic damage, experts have found. But the hope is that these would come on slowly enough to be somewhat manageable; having no target would be to risk catastrophic disruption, the thinking goes.”

New Life to Library Discards

Library Journal has turned the spotlight on the efforts of a Nova Scotia Sustainability Center that worked with Dalhousie University’s library system to find new purposes for library discards. Building and inventor David Cameron stacked a wall of books, and covered the result with a mixture of clay, sand, and straw, called earth plaster to provide insulation for the re-purposed schoolhouse:

building-book-wallPhoto credit: Library Journal

The “Es” of Sustainable Libraries

Random-ish thought: Environmental sustainability is defined by “the three Es,” in order for something to be truly sustainable it must address all three: environment, economics, and social equity. [Read more about this definition of sustainability here.]

Here are three possible Es for a Sustainable Library:

A place where patrons are:

  • Empowered
  • Engaged
  • Energized