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!

 

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!

Greening the WOMM Experiment

This month marks the launch of a little experiment at our System. I’m using our Word-of-Mouth Marketing (WOMM) Experiment to spread the word about what a good investment the library is in the context of “green.”

Our WOMM Experiment started last year when our Marketing Committee decided to put into practice what we kept hearing is the simplest, most effective (and cheapest) way to get the word out – word of mouth.

So our 66 libraries agreed to all promote one product/service/idea System wide for an entire month with a little centralized help. To help them out we’d do a little 30-second training or 5-question quiz to raise frontline staff awareness. We gave each library a circ desk poster with talking points on the back that staff could use as a cheat sheet if patrons asked questions (feedback on this was that it was simple yet brilliant!) and supplied libraries with sample newsletter blurbs, press releases and web graphics.

This was pretty easy to track when we promote a database but how about with concepts?

So this month is “Save Green by Going Green @your library”:

Our Marketing Committee agreed to this topic after my System-wide Green Your Library Challenge idea got shot down by one of our five counties. (Why yes, I was incredibly bummed about this!) So I sold it as a one-month commitment rather than a full year by demonstrating that this topic not only gives libraries the opportunity to convey to their communities how cost effective/efficient they are, it also gives libraries an opening to focus more internal attention on sustainable building and operations choices. This helps us transition our statewide advocacy message through the timeline for the passage of the NYS budget and allows for a new “tweak” on the messages we’ve been using for the past two months that libraries are a good use of public tax dollars. (If you’re not in NY you may not know but we’re battling a 10% cut that ultimately puts our funding level back to 1994 levels…)

We showed libraries three different ways to approach the sale of our message, “Save Green by Going Green”:

1. Patrons who use libraries “save green” by minimizing the volume of “stuff” they purchase, and “go green” since they reduce what they are having shipped to their home, drive around less to purchase “stuff” and dispose of less “stuff.” Check out these videos for more on this:
o The Story of Stuff
o Collaborative Consumption

2. Patrons can learn how to live a more sustainable (aka green) lifestyle through the library’s collection and programming. We’ve provided a list of display and programming ideas for libraries to use when planning.

3. Libraries that have invested funds into sustainable building features (solar, geothermal, daylighting, etc.) can use this opportunity to spotlight themselves as a model for people to learn from and to tout the cost savings earned through the use of these features, reinforcing how well they’ve used tax payer dollars. If the library is interested in exploring their sustainable facility options, I’m conducting a “10 Ways to Green Your Library” workshop to coincide with the release of the State Construction Aid applications in April. Energy efficient projects are eligible under the construction grant application guidelines.

The circ desk poster is a bit experimental – for the first time ever I incorporated a QR Code. I embedded a link to the New York Library Association’s Library Value Calculator to give patrons a chance to see how smart they are for using the library!

I’m coaching libraries to keep it simple. Pick one of the three themes and go with it but drive home the message that as tax payers and regular library users – whether by personal use or good, sustainable facility choices made by the library – we all save green when we go green through the library.

Think Spring

Here in the Northeast the gardening buzz is starting to pick up. I can actually see daffodil sprouts near one of our basement windows. It looks odd next to the 12 inches of snow and ice still piled up on most of the lawn.

I just caught wind of a library out in Kansas doing a community wide Green Fair and it made me start to think of all the programming libraries can be planning right now to ride the wave of people’s joy over the promise of spring.

Programming is a centerpiece of marketing. At MHLS we’ve developed targeted marketing tools over the years through our Building Your Base projects and programming to reach a specific audience and targeted programming has been one of the most effective. Marketing yourself as the hub of “green” can draw in new audiences and build your support in the community – and that makes good “sustainable sense.”

Here’s a list of spring-ish themed programming ideas:

  • Spring Cleaning
    • Reduce & Reuse @your library: a program to introduce all you have to offer in your collection (books, movies, music and magazines) and through your web site (downloadable content, magazines, newspapers) that can help people buy and store less.
    • Natural Cleaning Products
    • Recycling Showcase: Invite your county’s Solid Waste Department to come in and talk about how to get rid of household “stuff,” e-waste, yard waste and more without dumping it in a landfill.
    • What to do with…. (how to dispose properly of ewaste, household chemicals, batteries…)
  • Gardening
    • Rainwater Catchment
    • Preparing the Garden
    • Edible Flowers
    • Low-Maintenance Gardens
    • Community Garden (@the library?)
    • Landscape Design
    • Hanging Gardens
    • Container Gardens
    • Learn from a Master Gardener
    • Garden Software
    • Youth Garden Grants Program [National Gardening Association]
  • Food
    • Eating Local & In Season
    • Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs)
    • Growing Your Own
    • Canning
  • Home Maintenance/Improvement
    • Natural Lawn Care (mulching, killing weeds without polluting your local ecosystem, non-gas powered lawnmowers…)
    • Less Toxic Choices for Maintaining Your Home (low-VOC products – paint, sealants, caulk)
    • Is Solar Right for your Home?
    • Wind Power Generation
    • Tool Lending Library
  • Programs for Kids – childrens’ services staff are some of the most creative people around! Challenge them to come up with programs that instill a love and wonder for nature, environmentally friendly crafts, “save the planet” education
  • Movie Night:
    • Blue Vinyl
    • Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
    • Erin Brockovich
    • FernGully: The Last Rainforest
    • Hoot
    • No Impact Man
    • The End of Suburbia
    • The Warriors of Qiugang
    • The Yes Men Fix The World
    • Wall-E
    • Winged Migration

Got more ideas? Send them my way either in the comments below or via email. I’ll create a master list of green programming ideas and share them!

 

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.

Public Libraries & Local Governments

This publication is a statement on the significant role of public libraries in achieving local sustainability.

Last week the Urban Libraries Council released “Partners for the Future: Public Libraries and Local Governments Creating Sustainable Communities“:

“This report demonstrates how public libraries help local governments achieve sustainability goals in each of the three triple bottom line components* and is intended to both celebrate successes to date and provide a roadmap for  partnerships that are built to last.”

This publication is a call to action for public libraries around the country to be talking to their local municipalities about planning for sustainability. It won’t happen without planning. Many municipalities are taking the lead, particularly in urban areas. They may or may not think to include the library in their plans. Make sure your library is “at the table” for these discussions and wholeheartedly buys in, there is nothing to lose and much to gain. This publication gives you the talking points you need to begin to convince municipal leaders that libraries are essential to a sustainability initiative.

Maybe your municipality has not started to plan a sustainable future for your community yet, the library could take the lead or start the discussion!

*

  • Economic Vitality
  • Environmental Quality
  • Social Equity

Targeted Marketing

The Cumberland County Public Library in Fayetteville, NY has a pathfinder on their web site called “Thinking Green, Working Green” to support “Consumer, Developer, Builder and Other Business Professionals.” The site provides suggested search terms to use in the library catalog and beyond and a concise list of web sites.

This is a good example of targeting those in your community that might not think the library has anything for them. It demonstrates a level of consciousness not only about the topic but about marketing to a definable segment of the community that may already be sharing information amongst themselves. Great example of how to tap into an existing group and make the library relevant to them

“What does it mean to “be green”?

Nice, concise summary from Tufts University’s Office of Sustainability:

Being green is a commitment to:

1. discover best practices
2. innovate when solutions don’t exist
3. reduce waste and inefficiencies
4. adopt and embrace new habits
5. measure and celebrate progress.

You do these things every day; now try doing them with a green lens.



Green Music Group Challenge

This could be a cool program idea, particularly with teens: http://challenge.greenmusicgroup.org/

Current challenge deadline is coming up fast, July 30, but it looks like there are more challenges to come!

Challenge #8 just asks you to film yourself and your friends outside, not to too tough, particularly for those smart libraries that invested in a Flip Mino.

Greening Presentation for Onondaga County Public Library 5.7.10