Sustainable and Green @ your library: Greener and Eco-Friendly Libraries in the New Century (CASLIS Toronto)

Adapting the library profession, practice and buildings to become more eco-friendly is a long term challenge. Until I had the opportunity to attend a presentation on the topic last week, it was difficult to see what exactly what should do. Initially, I thought of the infrastructure: upgrading library buildings and spaces to obtain the LEED certification, the world’s best known standard for environmental architecture. But that’s only the beginning, there’s so much more librarians can do to address the world’s environmental challenges.

Fred Stoss‘s presentation last week at CASLIS Toronto was a wonderful combination of inspiration and knowledge. Among other things, I learned about the history of the green library movement which can be traced back more than ten years ago when the ALA launched the “Libraries Build Sustainable Communities” project. Stoss also pointed out that libraries and librarians have played an important role as educators and supporters of activists; take the example of the Acid Rain Information Clearinghouse that Stoss helped to launch in the 1980s. He also covered some of North America’s best known cases of green library buildings: the Bronx Library in New York City (LEED Silver),  the Semiahmoo Library and RCMP District Office in Surrey, BC (LEED Silver, Canada’s first LEED library) and the Lake View Terrace Library in California (LEED Platinum).

Stoss also raised several exciting possibilities for collaborations to encourage environmental educations. Librarians can support teachers educating students about the natural world by providing books, research databases and suggesting resources such as the National Digital Science Library and answering student questions. There is also the relatively untapped frontier of working with informal educators working at museums, parks, wildlife reserves and other settings where an outdoor educator may not have established and reliable access to a library and a librarian’s advice. In addition to educators, librarians can support the green economy in their communities by helping civic leaders prepare well researched grant requests and other planning documents.

Further reading and resources:

Antonelli, Monika, The Green Library Movement: An Overview and Beyond, Electronic Green Journal, 2008

The Library Journal Design Institute (a one day workshop on design issues; the 2008 workshop focused on environmental issues)

Green Libraries. A directory of green libraries, mainly a US focus

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