Thursday, December 18, 2008

Article: Library Journal Editorial: Seeing Green

Libraries are perfectly suited to be incubators for energy conservation

By Francine Fialkoff, Editor-in-Chief -- Library Journal, 1/15/2008

When you're pregnant, all you see is other pregnant women. When you've got a toddler, there they are, no matter where you turn. Last month, LJ headed to Chicago for its second annual Design Institute, this one on "Going Green," and ever since, I've been seeing green—and so have many of the 115 or so librarians who attended. [snip]

However, more important than the pictures we saw and the terms we picked up, we came away inspired to make our library buildings green and, beyond that critical local contribution, to use the individual and combined power of libraries in a whole new way and with a new direction. Nothing short of saving the planet from climate change will do, as luncheon speaker Sadhu Johnston, Chicago's chief environmental officer, put it. [snip]

.... [T]here's a long, long way for libraries to go to have an impact on the environment. There's so much to discover—and so much we could only begin to touch upon—that when attendees were asked to suggest topics for next year, many responded emphatically, "More green.". [snip]

The institute was a start on "how to do it" for many of those who were present, but it also made them aware of the expanding green universe. They want to know more about green products, regional materials, recycled goods, greening existing buildings, and remodeling/repurposing/recycling. [snip]

Libraries are aptly suited to take on that role, and the action plans many attendees came up with indicate they're thinking along those lines. In follow-up emails after the Design Institute, librarians reported that they are incorporating sustainable design or LEED certification into their upcoming projects and long-range plans, but they're also doing presentations for their executive leadership teams, boards, mayors, and other local leaders to bring them on board and put the library squarely in the middle of the broader green strategy.

Several mentioned their intention to use green buildings as demonstration projects, "educational models" for their locales, where residents can "see" energy-savings devices.

"Libraries need to engage every visitor, [they need to] lead by example," Johnston said. "That's a major way [librarians] can help your community." Libraries are already places for lifelong learning, and they provide users with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. There's no better place to model best practices for sustainable design, to be incubators for reduced energy consumption, to be educators for a whole range of new ideas than the library.



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