Harvesting the Seed: The Greening Libraries Report

Jane Garner, Kasey Garrison, Sabine Wardle, Karen Bell, Sarah Redshaw

Our recent LRG Blog post, Planting the Seed: The Greening Libraries Report, gave an overview of the recently published Greening Libraries Report*, which explores how libraries in Australia and beyond support sustainability in their communities. Using a literature review and six library case studies with exemplary green practices, we have created a list of recommendations for other libraries. These recommendations fall into three categories: Community Engagement, Partnerships, and Library Management.

Community Engagement

Community Engagement was a recurring example of practice from libraries throughout the published literature and our case studies. Libraries are in a strong position to engage the surrounding community in ways they can support sustainability in their homes and workplaces. First, libraries can develop consultation and communication plans regarding how they will engage the community in discussions around sustainability and greening practices. Then library spaces themselves can be used as education centres to disseminate information and tools. For example, the Hobson’s Bay Libraries in Victoria has set up an EnviroCentre in one of their branches, a “central hub” to raise awareness and showcase unique initiatives in the community around environmental issues. This includes information about recycling programs, energy efficiency, and library collection areas to explore for more resources. Many libraries, like our case study example at Noosa Library Services, also engage the community in workshops and events about sustainability and greening topics like gardening and growing your own produce. Libraries can also lead by example in sustainability by modelling best practices and engaging the community.

Partnerships

Another common theme in the review was creating collaborative partnerships with groups in the community and beyond. This includes council initiatives and local green groups in the community already working on sustainability projects similar to the case study of Woollahra Libraries that support the council’s Environmental Team. The library takes its mobile library to events and promotes green library resources in the team’s newsletter, as shown in the photo below.

Image Credit: Woollahra Council Our Environment Newsletter

Partnering with neighbouring councils is another excellent way to spread resources and knowledge about sustainability. At a broader level, libraries can join special interest groups related to libraries and sustainability like the ALIA Green, the Australian Library and Information Association’s Sustainability group, and the International Federation of Library Associations’ (IFLA) Environment, Sustainability, and Libraries section (ENSULIB), to stay up to date on wider trends happening nationally and globally and to share what they are doing in this space.

Library Management

Perhaps one of the most significant recommendations and trends in the report related to the overall management of the library is exemplified by practices from our case study examples at the Charles Sturt University (CSU) Library and the National Library of Australia (NLA). Many libraries implement environmental and sustainability policies and plans. The teams within their practices are also often guided by the policies and practices of their governing institution, such as those of the University in the case of the CSU Library. Green practices can become embedded in all areas of the library business. For example, some libraries complete risk assessments and measurements around their environmental impact and energy consumption; like our case study example, Longwood Public Library did to attain their Sustainable Library Certification to decrease their impact. Other libraries identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the library and individual staff, and these KPIs are discussed and evaluated at performance reviews, so everyone must show accountability. These KPIs can be small, like not using single-use plastic at library events and staff commuting via public transport or biking to the library, or big, like reducing the library’s greenhouse gas emission through more sustainable heating and cooling systems or building environmentally sustainable design into new library buildings like Cooroy Library’s grassy rooftop shown below.

Cooroy Library grassy rooftop. Image credit: Phil Jackson courtesy of Noosa Library Services

Through various greening activities examples mentioned, libraries are proposing to be in a strong position to be seen as sustainability leaders in the community and demonstrate their commitment to green practices in managing the library. We hope you can harvest some of these ideas to plant the seed of being green in your community.

*The Greening Libraries Project was funded by the Australian Library and Information Association’s sustainability section ALIA Green and is one of many collaborations with LRG members from CSU’s School of Information and Communication Studies and School of Social Work and Arts.

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