Three Libraries Complete NYLA Sustainability Certification Program

Hendrick Hudson Free Library in Montrose, Lindenhurst Memorial Library, and Saratoga Springs Public Library this year became the first libraries to complete the New York Library Association's Sustainable Libraries Certification Program, demonstrating their commitment to environmental stewardship, economic feasibility, and social equity.

Sustainable Libraries Certification Program recipients at NYLA awards
NYLA Sustainable Libraries Certification Program 2019 recognition, l.-r.: Matt Bollerman, director, Hauppauge Public Library & cofounder, NYLA-SI; Ike Pulver, director, Saratoga Springs Public Library; Lisa Kropp, director, Lindenhurst Memorial Library; Jill Davis, director, Hendrick Hudson Free Library; Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, executive director, Mid-Hudson Library System & cofounder, NYLA-SI.

The New York Library Association (NYLA) convened its 2019 Annual Conference and Trade Show from November 13–16. Some 1,100 members of the New York library community gathered in Saratoga Springs, NY, to talk, listen, learn, network, and celebrate the accomplishments of libraries and library workers across the state.

The Inaugural Celebration and Awards Ceremony, held at the ballroom of the Saratoga Hilton on November 15, recognized a host of new leaders and award recipients. Among others, the NYLA Senator Hugh Farley Outstanding Advocate for Libraries Award was given to Assemblymember Patricia Fahy; the NYLA Outstanding Service to Libraries Award went to Lauren Comito and Christian Zabriskie of Urban Librarians Unite; and the NYLA Intellectual Freedom Award was given to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

A new addition to the lineup this year was the recognition of three libraries that completed NYLA’s Sustainable Libraries Certification Program (SLCP) in 2019. Hendrick Hudson Free Library in Montrose, Lindenhurst Memorial Library, and Saratoga Springs Public Library all finished the program in the past year, demonstrating their commitment to environmental stewardship, economic feasibility, and social equity.

The program, launched by NYLA’s Sustainability Initiative (SI) in November 2017, offers a system of benchmarks to lead library administration, staff, and boards through a process of creating and maintaining sustainable practices. These include seven categories that encompass environmental factors—organizational commitment, energy, materials management, purchasing, transportation, land use, and water—and five focusing on the library’s mission: partnerships, community involvement, social equity and resiliency, financial sustainability, and collections. SLCP combines actionable steps, policy recommendations, data gathering tools for assessment, and resources, as well as offering support from technical advisers in the field. Participants support each other through in-person and online meetups and webinars.



While the program had only recently been pilot tested when they signed on, the pioneering libraries “saw the value in it and went for it,” said Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, executive director of the Mid-Hudson Library System, founding member of the American Library Association (ALA) Sustainability Round Table, cochair and cocreator of NYLA-SI, and a member of the SLCP development team.

“That meant building buy-ins throughout their whole organization, including with their board and their staff, and really changing the way they think about how to do things at every level of their organization,” Smith Aldrich told LJ. “I think the fact that they were willing to take that chance and were brave about it, and have leveraged it to great results—in terms of how much energy they're saving, good PR for their libraries, and new partnerships they've created—proved that the product we built actually works the way we designed it, which is pretty exciting for us.”

For Hendrick Hudson Free Library director Jill Davis, “The decision to undertake the certification process was an easy one,” she told Aldrich. “It was a chance to help educate our community to the benefits of sustainable practices in all areas of our operations, [and] to save a bit of money, and more importantly, the environment.”

The SLCP program is designed to be completed in 18 months. Hendrick Hudson, the first library to earn the certificate, had a head start: Davis was a founding member of NYLA-SI, and had finished part one prior to the program’s official launch. Within the year, the library finished the Fiscal Stewardship and Social Equity sections.

“Our participation in the certification process gave us an opportunity to find new and innovative ways to make sustainable practices a community focus,” said Davis. “We developed programs for all ages that incorporate sustainability, as well as applying those same core values to our internal practices like collection development, building management, and our financial future.”

Saratoga Springs was the second library to complete the program, in February. “We strive to provide programs and services that reach everyone in our community, and that have enduring social and educational impact,” director Issac Pulver said in a press release. “In order to help make sure that we serve that mission while minimizing our environmental impact, we committed to examining our operations and affirming that we’re making the best possible use of our resources as part of an overall sustainability initiative.

Lisa Kropp, director of Lindenhurst Memorial Library, is currently part of NYLA-SI’s Community Change Agent team. Lindenhurst is a member of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, an association of 23 Long Island library systems that has committed to SLCP. The cooperative has a staff person on board devoted to supporting participating libraries, and holds regional meetups around the program. Eight other member libraries are currently seeking the first part of their certification.

Smith Aldrich is enthusiastic about the interest in SLCP she’s seen from NYLA libraries. “We've now moved the dial from just talking about something to action,” she told LJ. “We're finally seeing outcomes of the work that we've been doing for the past five years. We now are not just talking the talk, we're walking the walk. Having those examples to point to, to inspire even more libraries to do the work, that's been the goal all along.”

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Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Executive Editor for Library Journal.

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