Beginning Your Green Building

Successful library projects begin with a lot of conversation. Conversation with and among the library board, library administration, all levels of library staff, and community opinion leaders... and then the building professionals. Here are ten steps to take right off the bat to prepare your green building project vision.
  1. Complete a community-based long-range planning process to clarify the library’s service priorities. The allocation of space will be based on and should align with those service priorities. Architects are excellent problem solvers, but many will tell you they do their best work within the defined parameters of a library’s needs and expectations. The clearer you are in detailing your vision of service, what you want in the building, and the preferred relationship among the parts of the building, the more likely you are to be happy with the final project.
  2. Study your community’s demographics. Compare them to your current program of services and user statistics to determine whether there are signifi cant portions of the community who are underserved. Reach out to leaders from those areas to determine how the library might better meet their needs and weave those services into your action plan.
  3. Become a destination library now! Work to increase the library’s visibility and relevance to your community members to gain support later. Weed your collection to create space for seating and peoplebased activities. Few communities are interested in funding the expansion of a “book storage facility.” Sometimes crowded libraries will offer programming in limited seating areas and around the stacks before they are able to expand; there is no better way to demonstrate the need for more space. Depending on your demographics, you might decide to become a family destination aligning your hours with family time, or a gathering place for the newly retired, with comfortable seating, a coffee pot, and the local papers.
  4. Use your current popularity to develop a database of potential donors. Include first names, alternate addresses, and other details to personalize future mailings.
  5. Begin to educate the public about green practices and sustainable living. Some libraries are offering Green Book Discussion Groups; others offer a green living blog or booklists. Some libraries circulate energy meters so community members can evaluate their home usage.
  6. Begin an ongoing conversation with your staff about how the design of your library could have a positive impact on global warming. This might include an examination of issues like lighting design and overall electricity usage. Would the updating of HVAC systems lower operating costs? Review purchases of lighting products, furniture, and carpeting for their impact on air quality. Review recycling efforts within the building. Improve photocopying practices and the processing of materials to generate less trash.
  7. Establish and enhance your green space. Model the use of droughtresistant plantings wherever possible. Consider offering multigenerational library garden projects.
  8. Create a web page that is a portal for green information on your web site, with links to energy audit services, recycling agencies, and places to buy green products.
  9. Partner with other agencies like community gardens, cooperative extension, parks and recreation, and schools and elder service organizations to create programs that get people outside. Some libraries are combining local walks with field specialists with their One Town One Book or citywide One Book programs.
  10. Create a library green implementation team to study practices, recommend new procedures, and develop a timetable to lower environmental impact. Move communication with users online to save paper and mailing costs, and set copiers to use both sides of each sheet of paper automatically.
Remember, libraries thrive as idea places. Make sustainability a focus in your library and in your community, and a fl ood of ideas will follow.—Cheryl Bryan, MLIS, is the author of Managing Facilities for Results: Optimizing Space for Services. She provides consulting and training in planning and updating facilities


Climate Savers Initiative Computer Disposal information Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool Green Library Blog; on Facebook: The Green Library GreenWikia
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing