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.

Greening Meetings

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like I go to a lot of meetings, a lot of workshops and a fair number of conferences. I was struck this year by the obviousness of those facilities and organizations that have made an effort to make more sustainable facility and operational choices in the context of the “meeting experience.”

  • paper handouts vs. online referrals to handouts
  • the quality of the plates, cups, forks/spoons/knives, napkins provided
  • individual plastic water bottles
  • quality or (heavenly absence of) “giveaways” – bags, notepads, pens
  • recycling for cans and bottles
  • snack choices

While it may seem minor in some cases all of these things contribute to a meeting/workshop/conference experience. Here’s how my mind was working this year, I forgot my stainless steel water bottle at an event recently and had to break down and buy a bottle of water. I had to carry it around for hours, literally, until I found a recycling receptacle.  I was actually distracted by this, my mind was constantly on the look out! This was at a conference with hundreds of people attending, how many of them didn’t hold on to their bottles until they found it? That’s probably hundreds of bottles just thrown in the trash.

I actually had a visceral reaction when I realized I’d have to use a Styrofoam plate at one of our own, catered, events. How to rectify this? I’m suggesting that next year this is part of our contract with the caterer, that plates, napkins and utensils contain recycled content.

As consumers we can enact change. Libraries spend a lot of money in communities, if we start demanding specific sustainable aspects we can change how people do business.

Don’t be complacent, fill out that workshop evaluation form and suggest healthier, more sustainable options. Planning an event? Check out:

Building Orientation

Last week we conducted a building orientation for all staff members. This idea came out of the MHLS Green Team. During one of our meetings our facilities guy was commenting on how a few staffers were consistently leaving on the lights at night which was wasting electricity. The conversation that followed revealed that some of us didn’t know where the light switches were for certain lights and others were not sure it was our job to turn them off (thinking there were still others in the building).

We designed an hour long program, limited it to 6 staff people at a time and did a couple of sessions to make sure everyone had a chance to participate. We stated it was mandatory (but that we knew they would come along even if it wasn’t!)

Before the sessions we implemented some signage we had agreed on and labeled all light switches.

We met around a table to begin and
1) Reviewed the “Building Basics”

  • building operating hours
  • alarm
  • opening and closing procedures
  • lighting basics

2) “Safety First” alerted staff to

  • emergency procedures
  • fire safety
  • some basic personal precautions to take to protect themselves when leaving the building after hours

3) MHLS “Goes Green” Challenge Results

  • shared the results of the Challenge in which they all took part (more than 120 ideas were shared!)
  • let everyone know some of the things that were already being done that had been suggested
  • what energy efficiency items have been included in our facility plan (new windows and solar panels)
  • reviewed the building recycling opportunities and guidelines
  • shared tips from Staff gathered through the Challenge:
    • “Top Ten Tips” for Conserving Energy – some ideas were very specific to our building but here are ones that work anywhere:
      • turn off computers and monitors at the end of every day
      • use the Power Options setting on PCs to help machines save energy while idle
      • unplug equipment used infrequently (pencil sharpeners, laminator)
      • use the stairs rather than the elevator
    • Paper: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Then we toured through the building, starting at the door everyone enters and leaves through. On each floor we pointed out:

  • how doors lock, when they should be locked
  • fire extinguishers
  • circuit breaker boxes
  • light switches
  • where lights could be shut off when no one is in the area
  • safety tips (like closing blinds on the first floor at the end of the day)

It went amazingly smoothly. Everyone “played along” and were helpful, coming up with more ideas along the way – motion detectors for the bathroom lights to help make sure lights are off when no one is in there, glow in the dark tape on key light switches, tips for using a fire extinguisher… it was great.

Have I mentioned yet how glad I am we did the MHLS Green Team? ;-)

Green Signage

Those of you who have been to my presentations know I’m big on telling the story of a green building with signage. Came across some great sources providing signage made from sustainable materials I thought I’d pass along:

Keep it local: ask you local sign maker what they can do to provide you with signage made from sustainable sources. Look for eco-friendly inks, biodegradable signs, recycled-content…

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

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.

PLA @Portland

I just returned from the Public Library Association Conference in Portland, OR. I was really impressed with the city and convention center from a green perspective.

From the MAX light rail system (which clearly marks the stop for the library!) to the bike friendly features of the city to solar powered trash compactors – around every corner was a new piece of evidence of thoughtfulness towards the environment.

The Oregon Convention Center (LEED-EB Silver) was another refreshing experience – clearly marked recycling points throughout the building, dual flush toilets, a large rain garden to mitigate storm water run-off from the site… and they had great signage alerting attendees to the sustainable features of the convention center – something I am highly critical of is when LEED buildings do not take the opportunity to educate users of the facility to the green features of their buildings. OCC does a great job in this area.

They city is eclectic, fun and funky and I appreciated the opportunity to visit.