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Every Day is Earth Day at the Library

Earth Day Flag

Today is Earth Day, but did you know that libraries around the country celebrate it on a daily basis? Libraries play an important and unique role in promoting community awareness about resilience, climate change, and a sustainable future. In acknowledgement of this, the American Library Association (ALA) adopted sustainability as a core value of the library profession in 2019. As Rebekah Smith Aldrich, executive director of the Mid-Hudson Library System in Poughkeepsie, New York, said at ALA's 2020 Midwinter Meeting and Exhibits:

“There is nothing bigger in this world today than climate change,” she said. “This will be getting worse, if we don’t change things. It can’t be something that happens just on Earth Day—it has to be ongoing.”

This Earth Day, let’s look at how some libraries are leading by example by taking steps to reduce their environmental footprint and promote sustainability.

  • Park City (Utah) Library has opened a new Sustainability Resource Center. Located in the middle of the library’s first floor, the center features an EcoPower bike, a rotating display of books and information on different sustainability themes, a cabinet of sustainability-related books for children, teens, and adults, a Green Wall and indoor herb and vegetable garden, and seed and tool libraries.
  • Cranford (N.J.) Library was awarded $1,000 to establish a Native Seed Library for Union County from New Jersey American Water (NJAW). The library aims to establish a collection of seeds native to the area to preserve and maintain local biodiversity. Union County residents can stop by the library and pick up seeds at no cost. Educational materials on planting, maintaining and gathering new seeds from the plant will be included. 
  • UMass Amherst Libraries have announced the winners of the 2022 Undergraduate Sustainability Award which promotes in-depth understanding of sustainability topics, research strategies, and the use of library resources, providing participating students with vital skills they will carry into future academic and vocational endeavors. The five winners received $800 scholarships. The winning topics included “What Has Fast Fashion Got to Do with Sustainability?,” “Urban Greening Techniques in U.S. Cities:  Public Welfare or Social Warfare?,” “Urban Greening Techniques in U.S. Cities:  Public Welfare or Social Warfare?,” “Community Food Action Plan,” and  “Toto, We’re Not in Hadley Anymore!: Environmental, Economic, and Cultural Complexities Surrounding the Adoption of No-Till Farming on Large-Scale Farms.”
  • Staten Island’s newest public library boasts net-zero credentials. New York Public Library, in partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, has just opened the $17 million and LEED Gold-certified Charleston Library, the system’s first Net-Zero Energy library. The design team at ikon.5 architects collaborated with sustainability consultant Atelier Ten to achieve the project’s ambitious energy goals. To that effect, the building deploys an entirely electric, non-carbon producing system. Further measures to enhance overall performance include glass-bead blasted, and perforated, stainless steel vertical louvers positioned to address solar gain at the most heat intensive times of the year. In the building interior, MEP Engineer Kohler Ronan Consulting Engineers inserted a suite of high-performance features, such as a perimeter radiant heating system and expanded demand control ventilation for each room within the library, as well as a variable refrigerant flow HVAC system with energy recovery.

Read more about library sustainability efforts at ALA’s Sustainability Round Table and at American Libraries.

Earth Day Flag image: John McConnell (flag designer), NASA (Earth photograph), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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