Earth Day: Green Libraries

13 Apr


Below is a picture (albeit not a very good one) of one of the owls that lives outside of our library.  It’s only one of the reasons that I think my library is one of the coolest places ever.  We’re smack dab in the middle of a 350-acre park, the largest city park in Orange County.  It’s no Yosemite, but I think it makes a difference when every window looks out onto trees and ponds.  I get to park under a huge bank of solar panels that pay for almost our entire facility’s electricity.  It’s fun working somewhere that I can feel good about our impact on the planet.


Libraries tend to be pretty socially-minded places, since they’re supposed to be havens for all sorts of people and ideas.  They’re also usually under tight budgets, meaning they have to be creative in finding ways to reuse and make do with less.  I think these two attributes mean that libraries are more likely than not to try out green initiatives.  Our library’s eco-friendly traits are actually pretty minor when it comes to the library world.  Here are four other public libraries that are doing their part for books and the planet.

McAllen Public Library – You may have heard of the “Walmart” library.  It was pretty big news on Facebook and got press worldwide.  This is one of several libraries that have reused abandoned structures.  After its renovation, the McAllen library became the largest single-story library in the U.S. (which also tells us something about Walmarts).  When big box stores fail, they are often left as empty urban blight.  The library’s reuse of the space not only improved the community, it also helped rid the town of an abandoned eyesore.

San Francisco Library Environmental Center – Filled with resources for anyone wishing to increase their environmental knowledge, the Wallace Stegner Environmental Center contains programs, information, and exhibits on sustainability.  Especially in larger libraries, these centers can be great resources for their cities.  The San Francisco Library also has a page called Green Stacks, which points out all the ways that the library champions the environment.  For example, they changed their receipt paper to a BPA-free brand.

Pima County Library – PCL is an example of the growing trend to add seeds to the collection.  While there are specific seed libraries, public libraries are joining the mission.  Seed libraries keep heirloom versions of seeds to preserve unique and heritage plants.  Members can borrow seeds to start their own plants and are then encouraged to keep the seeds so they can continue to share them.

Wilmette Public Library – It’s not many libraries that include their green initiatives in their “about us” statement on their web page.  Their list includes both a commitment to purchasing from eco-friendly companies and promoting environmental programming to their patrons.  It’s a simple mission that works really well as a starting point for any library that wants to contribute to saving the planet.

As sources of information sharing, a lot of libraries find ways to promote their eco-friendly tips.  Here’s some further reading:
Green Libraries from the University Library at UIUC
Green Libraries from ALA
Sustainable Libraries Facebook Group
10 Wonderful Libraries Repurposed from Unused Structures



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