Kingston Library’s Climate Smart Pledge

As my 100th post I thought I’d share something that makes me smile every time I think about it.

Planning to change for the better is a wonderful thing for an organization. A thoughtful progression towards a common goal happens only with leadership and planning.

I am very please to present the Kingston Library’s Climate Smart Pledge to you.

While only peripherally involved in its creation as a consultant, I have watched this library strive to be the best it can be for its community for years. The library board took note when their city signed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Climate Smart Community Pledge. They saw an opportunity to pursue their own internal goals while supporting their local government’s adoption of similar goals.

A committee of the board took the DEC’s pledge and used it as a template for their own pledge. Creating a document that became board approved, serving as guidance for the library’s administration and future boards to abide by.

The library’s pledge addresses operations, facility issues and programs and includes an acknowledgement that adaptive change must be a component to allow for flexibility in assessing and implementing cost effective options.

What I love so much about this library is that they are already actively implementing projects that show they are serious. They recently secured a New York State Construction Aid grant to re-do their parking lot to mitigate storm water run-off, a significant community-wide identified issue given the urban landscape the library is located in.

A sustainable library is one that understands community priorities and reflects them throughout their organization – from governance, to collection development and programming to facility priorities. Bravo to the Kingston Library and its board and staff. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

 

Sustaining

I haven’t posted in awhile, not by choice. In January I got a new boss. Shortly after that 30% of my coworkers were laid off. Shortly after that I made it my mission to fight the heck out of the New York State Governor’s proposed 10% cut to library aid.

Library Systems in NYS have been kicked around for the past 15 years, it’s been a lot worse since the economic downturn. It’s hard to believe that the NYS budget has doubled since 1998 but library aid went down by 25%. We’ve been cut five times in just the last two years.

I’m a fan of common sense. I’m a fan of people who take personal responsibility for themselves. It is not common sense to cut libraries during economic hard times because libraries are where people who take responsibility for themselves and their families go to make it through.

Using the library’s computers and Internet connection is a lifeline for job seekers. Prepping kids for school when your family can’t afford to send them to pre-school increases a child’s earning potential twenty years later. Having the opportunity to relax with a book or a movie after working in a place that is under constant threat of lay offs should not be reserved for those that can purchase said movie from Amazon.

The same reason I started SustainableLibraries.org is why I believe in public libraries – we all have to work together to make a difference. It may sound hokey or naive but I really do believe that.

I believe in the library directors, staff, trustees and Friends Groups that I work with in the Mid-Hudson Library System because I see them change lives of people in their community for the better. Whether it be by providing great customer service, caring reference assistance, good collections, positive community events that bring neighbors together, helpful programs for people of all ages to do everything from get people’s taxes filed correctly to de-stressing with a yoga class.

SustainableLibraries.org was started as an extension of my day job where I help libraries find sustainable funding. I strongly believe that a very smart part of a truly sustainable funding strategy is a sustainable building, a focus on reduced operating costs through smart choices in facility construction, operations and programs.

Last year I found myself groaning every time someone whipped out the phrase “now more than ever” but I’m usin’ it this morning – libraries need to focus on sustainability – on all fronts – NOW MORE THAN EVER.

Our funding is decreasing, politicians are scrutinizing, users are relying on us. We have to make smart choices that sustain us for the long haul locally and globally.

A fact I used on Library Advocacy Day on Tuesday in our State’s capitol was that while state funding is decreasing at a record rate, local funding is holding firm. Local tax payers are voting to tax themselves for library services in their communities – statewide 97% of library budget votes passed in 2010. Local people get it, now we just have to help legislators hear from their constituents that they are supposed to represent up in Albany.

One thing I’ve learned is that legislators value “going green” right now. Regardless of political affiliation legislators have voted for more money to go to the energy research and development authority, green job creation and sustainable construction money than just about anything else.

We’ve got to get in on that.

Tie sustainable funding and “going green” together, trust me, it will pay off for you in one way or another.

Buildings are for People

Earlier this week I was at a library presenting a workshop for trustees (not a Greening Your Library session but a very fun Advocacy Boot Camp) in a beautiful community room overlooking Lake Mahopac. As we wrapped up and started to pack up our flip charts, laptop and data projector the next group who had reserved the space – an outside community group – was trickling in and setting up – what a popular place! As we overlapped in this space I overheard a snippet of a conversation that went a little like this:

“Our building is [stupid]. Can you believe the AC (air conditioning) came on today? It was like 3 degrees outside at lunch time! It’s controlled by a computer so we put gel ice packs on the thermostats to trick it and made the heat come on.”

I stopped in my tracks and thought, “She’s right, that is [stupid].” Everyone is losing out. The staff are unhappy and distracted (how long did it take them to come up with the ice pack trick?) which probably shows in their work and customer service habits. The building is confused and it’s systems are not optimized which probably means it costs more to heat and cool the building and increases the likelihood that the equipment will wear out sooner. The potential for damaging the building (what if that ice pack leaks and shorts out the thermostat?) increases when staff start to jerry-rig its systems. All of this adds up to money. Loss of productivity, building repairs, increase oil/gas use, increase electricity use…

Buildings are for people. Your facility operations should take this into account. From whether or not the environmental controls meet the needs of the people in the space to the cleaning products used – we have to find the balance between human comfort, pricing of products, utility costs and the staff time devoted to maintaining the buildings.

In one of my courses for my Sustainable Building Advisor certification a classmate of mine who previously had been a facility manager for a local college shared that in his tenure there the most frequent complaints from the faculty were temperature complaints, too hot in the classroom or too cold. He also said it was more psychological than related to physiology; which he “scientifically tested” by reporting back to complainants that he had made changes to the settings at their request when he really had not. He said 9 times out of 10 they were satisfied when he had actually not made a change at all.

I’ve found that the best facility operations managers are good listeners. They never discount a persons complaint without fully hearing them out, expressing that they will check into the issue and reporting back on actions (or phantom actions) taken to address the issue. Even if it is a phantom temperature change, if the employee is satisfied… great!

In some cases, hopefully not yours, there seems to be a significant disconnect between building occupants (library staff and patrons), building maintenance, and building management. Just as we all get together to identify priorities for services for the community we should also understand the purpose of our library buildings – they are here to serve just as we are.

This dialogue can help optimize your building, your staff and your budget.

Building management is a science unto itself however library directors do have a responsibility to manage all aspects of the library organization. Your building can impact staff productivity and morale and send an unspoken message to patrons. One of my professors in library school once said, “A building in visible disrepair sends an outward message of neglect – will the service inside be much better?”

I guess my point after these ramblings is: Aligning our service priorities with our facility priorities could be a bigger personnel, budgetary and public relations factor than you may think. Food for thought…

BPA-Free Receipt Paper

Last year we saw a series of news stories on how our gas station receipts were toxic because of “BPA.” But it didn’t stop there, receipts from the ATM, the grocery store, at the mall and at the library also contain BPA. [BPA Receipts Bombshell (CBS); Cashiers May Face Special Risks From BPA (Science News); Another Reason You Don't Need Your Receipt (U.S. News & World Report)]

BPA, Bisphenol A, is a chemical that has been “used for more than 40 years in the manufacture of many hard plastic food containers such as baby bottles and reusable cups and the lining of metal food and beverage cans, including canned liquid infant formula. Trace amounts of BPA can be found in some foods packaged in these containers.” [1]

The Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry has stated that “when it comes to BPA in the urban environment, “the biggest exposures, in my opinion, will be these cash register receipts.” [2]

The man-made chemical has been shown in scientific experiments to mimic the hormone estrogen, and government reports in the US have, in the past, expressed relatively minor concern about exposure. However, the fact that BPA is found everywhere – in a study conducted in2009 by the US Health & Human Services Department it was found in 93% of all test subjects’ urine – the saturation of the chemical in our environment – and our bodies – has become a larger concern.

So large, in fact, that in September 2010 Canada officially declared BPA toxic. BPA is now on their toxic substances list based on concern about possible risk to fetuses and babies

Last year I came across an article about the Eugene Public Library which reported that the library had switched to BPA-free paper:

“When deciding whether to make the costly switch — the BPA-free paper costs 5 percent more — library staff members said they used the city’s “triple bottom line” standard, which assesses the best decision based on environmental, social and fiscal costs.[emphasis mine]The conclusion: Switching was the best option.

Looking ahead, the library hopes to make paper receipts a thing of the past.”

Bravo Eugene!!

An even bigger “Bravo!” to Multnomah County, also in Oregon, as they actually realized a cost savings through switching to BPA-free:

“Jeremy Graybill, marketing and communications director for the library, estimates it will save between $1,400 and $3,200 through its switch to BPA-free paper this fiscal year.

Graybill said it is tough to pinpoint the exact savings that will result from the change, since the library has yet to move through a whole year of inventory. But the library uses about 8,300 rolls of receipt paper annually, mostly as hold slips to direct patrons to books they’ve ordered. In its previous fiscal year, the library spent $10,000 on receipt paper. At the low end, the projected savings from the switch looks to be at least 14 percent.” [3]

So take a fresh look online or call your current receipt paper supplier, prices have come down on BPA-free paper throughout 2010 and I expect this trend to continue.

Make the switch, it’s the right thing to do for your staff and your patrons.

“2010 County Sustainability Strategies”

Came across this publication from the National Association of Counties (NACo) as I started to think more about the implications of what I read in the Urban Libraries Council’s recently released publication focused on public libraries and local governments.

Highlights from the NACo’s 2010 County Sustainability Strategies publication:

  • The most important benefit counties are realizing from sustainability efforts is cost savings.
  • “Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Generation”, and “Waste Management” are the most common sustainability efforts counties are pursuing.
  • Thirty-four percent of the responding counties identified that they have a staff position to coordinate green efforts.
  • County sustainability coordinators are spread out across several different county departments, with the highest concentrations in County Administration, Operations, Environmental Protection, and Planning and Development.
  • Overwhelmingly, funding is the most significant challenge inhibiting counties from accomplishing all sustainability strategies. The second most cited challenge is staff time.
  • If given the opportunity, the majority of respondents would further invest, in order of priority, in (1) Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Generation followed by Waste Management; (2) Green Building Construction/Renovation, and Water Conservation/Reuse; and (3) Green Purchasing, Local Food Systems, and Green Economic Development.
  • In general, counties in the West and Northeast Regions are pursuing all sustainability strategies with greater intensity than South and Midwest counties.

The word “library” does not appear at all in this report. BIG opportunity here folks!

Green Team Meeting #3

Today’s Green Team meeting at MHLS was a little bittersweet.

I’ll start with the sweet, there was lots of it!
1) We reviewed the content for the new staff web page that will orient staff to what we did with their 300+ ideas they submitted as part of the “MHLS Goes Green” Initiative we launched earlier this year.

  • I noticed a bunch of suggestions were for things we already do so I found a gentle way to convey this and coupled that with a list of short term and long term items we’re acting on that people suggested. These are things that take more research or a bucket load, or even handful, of cash that we just don’t have right now. (Thanks NYS Budget.)
  • Summarized the “Recycling Rules” for the building so there’s one central place to double check if it’s ok to recycle paper with staples (it is).
  • A “Demystification of Myths” Q&A for things we’ve heard that people misunderstand – whether it saves more energy to turn off an office light for an hour or leave it on (turn it off); do we really recycle paper or does it just go in the dumpster (we really recycle it!); why we don’t use vinegar and baking soda to clean; and an explanation of how power is still being used even when things are “turned off” to encourage smart strip usage.
  • Two “personal responsibility” tip lists – the first on paper consumption, what they can do personally to reduce, reuse and recycle paper the second, their top 10 suggestions for conserving energy.

I’ll post the staff page once I finish so you can see what I’m talking about.

2)We agreed on small signs that can go in various spots around the building to reinforce the info on the tip sheets for conserving energy and paper. They will all be branded with the same logo, a green leafy thing with the words “MHLS Goes Green” so they are easily recognizable and to help promote to our members and trustees that we’ve done a coordinated conservation effort. Signs will go on the copy machines to remind people to double side copies, near light switches to remind people to shut off lights as they leave for a meeting or for the day, etc.

3) We planned a staff education event with two parts, classroom time to go over the conservation tip sheets / recycling rules and a walk-thru of the building so everyone can learn how to “use” the building together. We’re planning to integrate opening and shut down procedures for security along with the conservation and recycling rules to help everyone get on the same page. We decided on 4 offerings, max of 6 people in each session to get through it in an hour or less. Our staff is super friendly and likes to chat and joke around when they get together so we figured 6 would be easiest to keep focused!

So the not-so-sweet part? We had a frank discussion about whether or not we could pledge ourselves to the Sustainable Hudson Valley’s 10% Challenge: to reduce our fossil fuel usage and to educate 10% of our constituents about energy efficiency options. While I know for sure we could slam dunk the education challenge the group came to the disappointing conclusion that we could not meet the 10% reduction in fossil fuel usage in the next year.

We’ve probably met the 10% challenge in past years (weatherization, turning down thermostats, water heater, wrapping the water heater) but have plateaued to some degree. At the moment, we are stymied by our budget woes.Since we’ve already implemented the free options and, right now, can’t afford even our next low cost solutions (lamp replacement, water cooler upgrade, etc.) the group felt we’d be setting ourselves up for failure. Next on our list is new windows or at least storm windows and we’ve been unable to come up with a match for the State Construction grant due to our budget situation. Solar panels are on the list, but again, grants cover half and we have no capital budget at this point.

While this may be a short term set back I’m not convinced we can’t do the 10% this year. I’m going to crunch some numbers, call some folks and take a hard look at what 10% looks like and maybe re-pitch this opportunity to the group. Stay tuned!!

Green Team Meeting #2

Today was our second Green Team meeting and it went really well.

  • We reviewed the benchmark data gathered since our last meeting:
    • electricity usage in both buildings
    • gas consumption for both buildings
    • paper recycling levels
    • solid waste recycling levels
  • Options for providing safe drinking water for staff and guests were reviewed in light of the decision to stop providing serving bottled water – bottleless water cooler option looking very attractive (not to mention a lot cheaper than what we’ve been doing). Decided we needed to think about it more and will revisit this at our next meeting.
  • Reviewed the results of our complimentary lighting audit done for by a consulting firm that works with our utility company. I need to double check the numbers but it looks like we could completely convert our lighting in the office building to T8s, get a 50% rebate from our utility AND payback the remaining cost through energy savings in 1.21 years. Not to mention the on-going savings after that.
  • Then came the fun stuff. Over the past three weeks we challenged our coworkers to come up with “green” ideas. Anything goes – that was the only parameter! I received 130 ideas! I’ll share the best ideas in a later post but just wanted to say that at this stage the act of asking everyone had so much benefit:
    • Staff buy-in for change
    • Revelation that some were unaware of existing recycling and energy saving rules already in place building-wide – really made us think about how we convey the rules and how staff are oriented to the way things should be done
    • Behavior is already starting to change – more people are turning off lights in unoccupied offices and rooms, more people are using ceramic mugs rather than disposable cups for coffee…
    • Excitement that they can help the System save money by changing how we do things – people were so anxious to help, it was wonderful
  • Next steps identified:
    • Codify existing rules related to recycling and energy savings and create a staff web page so people can reference the info – things like what is recyclable, who is responsible for turning off lights, making sure everyone is turning off computers/monitors at the end of the day…
    • Create tip sheet on reducing paper use based on the input from staff gathered over the last month
    • Work with the Computer Operations Department to audit all computers and printers in the building to make sure they have basic energy saving settings in place and to develop how-to info for people that want to adjust the energy saving settings
    • Use input from staff to create a checklist of things they can personally do to reduce energy consumption
    • Develop a staff education event to orient them to the building, how they can play a part in reducing, reusing and recycling

So for those of you in our member libraries – the Business Office won the MHLS Go Green Challenge – they came up with twice as many ideas as the other two floors. Doris, our receptionist, was the champ, I got more ideas from her than anyone in the building! Go Green!

The future of cloud computing

The Pew Internet & American Life Project released a new report on June 11, 2010: “The future of cloud computing

“By 2020, most people won’t do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Instead, they will work in Internet-based applications such as Google Docs, and in applications run from smartphones.”

What will this mean for libraries? Some possibilities:

  • Less servers = smaller electric bill for the library
  • PCs purchased for patron use will not be configured the way the PCs we are buying today are; may possibly be just a box and monitor connected to the internet = cheaper hardware, less manufacturing
  • Size of PCs can diminish, taking up smaller footprint in library space
    • the report predicts that “the desktop will not die out but it will be used in new, improved ways in tandem with remote computing
  • Apps for smartphones from the library (catalog, databases, library’s web site) = digital library will take on new and different forms, people using services and facilities in different ways
  • Robust broadband connection = more, more, more
  • More power outlets for charging laptops/smartphones = design considerations
  • Software licensing a thing of the past? Open source options (Google Docs, Linux, etc.) meet the needs of patrons without costing the library = staff training issues, budget impact?
  • More to come… I’m sure!

Signage & QR Codes

At the LJ Design Institute last week a question from the audience got me thinking – the question was whether or not using digital signage, specifically LCD panels, were an energy efficient option and a waste reducing option (the idea being less paper would be used to announce programs, etc.)

The hive mind in the room came up with the answer that LED panels would be more energy efficient than LCD, that yes, it would reduce the amount of paper used and that there was a definite hip factor to the application of digital signage in libraries.

It got me thinking about something I heard at the PLA Conference at the Top Tech Tips panel discussion about QR-Codes – these cute squares of connection can be used by owners of smartphones to link to more information. Evidently stores use these, posting them by the front door so customers can connect with sale information or the online version of the store through their phone.

Libraries could make use of these as well for program announcements, posting of hours, board meetings or build them into a program – thinking of something like a scavenger hunt using clues found through the QR-Codes….

For now you can play with QR-Codes using this free QR-Code generator.  Stick one in your email signature, post one on your library’s front door and gauge reaction – as more patrons use smartphones the more potential there is to connect virtually with them.

Library Journal 2010 Design Institute @Atlanta

Just returned from the Library Journal’s 2010 Design Institute in Atlanta, GA where I moderated a panel: Sustainable Libraries with or without LEED. On the panel with me:

We tackled whether or not LEED is “worth it” (yes); will it cost more (upfront, yes; long term – probably not); “must-have” green features (best answer: building owners willing to make the commitment to green the project); and “green” features to skip (showers in libraries to get the LEED point for bike racks and preferred parking spots for hybrid vehicles).

During the “green must-haves” portion of the discussion David Moore took me by surprise when he focused on water conservation. I was expecting everyone to focus on renewable energy (geothermal, solar) or energy efficient  options as that is what has been most important here in New York, however, given that the overwhelming majority of the audience was from the South East (Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina) they were acutely attuned to the recent drought. Stories were told of people trying to capture the condensation off the air conditioning tubes for a little extra water and using buckets to capture the water coming out of the shower as it warmed up to a reasonable temperature. David expressed that he would be hard pressed not to incorporate water conservation (rain catchment, gray water recycling for toilets, landscaping etc.) features into future projects.

I’ll share more thoughts from this event this week but just wanted to share a bit about the experience as it is so fresh in my mind this morning!