Certified Sustainable | Sustainability

On Earth Day 2022, Suffolk County, NY, Executive Steven Bellone announced a $12 million investment in electric vehicle charging stations. He chose the Lindenhurst Memorial Library—the second library in the country to be certified under the Sustainable Libraries Initiative’s Sustainable Library Certification Program—as the location for the press conference.

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich head shotOn Earth Day 2022, Suffolk County, NY, Executive Steven Bellone announced a $12 million investment in electric vehicle charging stations. He chose the Lindenhurst Memorial Library (LML) as the location for the press conference. “That’s why we’re at the Lindenhurst Library today, because they have been in the lead. I want to thank them for their vision, their leadership…. We truly appreciate Lindenhurst being out in front on such an important issue.”

LML was the second library in the country to be certified under the Sustainable Libraries Initiative’s Sustainable Library Certification Program, a program Library Director Lisa Kropp has credited not only with catching the eye of the county executive but also one that helped the library staff to prepare for one of the biggest disruptions to modern life as we know it, COVID-19. “I’m convinced that because our library was involved in sustainable work over the past two years (prior to the pandemic), we were ready to bounce back from this social disruption—and show our grit and resiliency in the face of adversity.”

The award-winning Sustainable Library Certification Program, the first of its kind in the world for libraries, helps library leaders tackle what has proven to be a massive challenge: how to run our libraries and develop strategies that combat climate change while building community resilience.



The program provides methodology for helping a library’s leadership build buy-in and make progress on the topics surrounding sustainability in their organization using the triple bottom line definition of sustainability. The goal of the work is to influence the mindset of library leaders—at all levels of the organization—to ensure that as we make decisions, large and small, we do so through this framework of considering not only the cost, but also the environmental and social impact.

Through this methodology, the program addresses issues of not only sustainability but library and community resilience and the concept of regenerative libraries—those that are serving as both a model of best practices and a catalyst for good things in the community.

For public libraries, there are 12 categories of action, and in each there are required and recommended actions. When you're getting started there is work to do to help administration and the board understand the topic at a deeper level, and policy adoption so you can move forward with implementing changes in purchasing, building operation, and personnel. As you move through the other categories, the tasks are more micro than macro, focusing in on things like energy consumption, landscaping, food waste, disaster planning, and collection and programming choices. The categories are:

  • Getting Started
  • Outdoor Spaces
  • Indoor Spaces
  • Transportation
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Materials
  • Collective Impact
  • Social Cohesion
  • Resilience Planning
  • Financial Sustainability
  • Collections



In a recent book from ALA Editions, Library and Sustainability: Programs and Practices for Community Impact, three library leaders who have helped lead their libraries through the program, including Kropp, shared their experiences. LML had a number of successes during the certification process, including solving a major problem: no affordable option for recycling. Through the program the library forged a new partnership with the village, which now picks up its paper and plastic recycling at no cost. By eliminating paper and cardboard from its waste stream, the library immediately achieved a 45–55 percent weekly reduction in the amount of trash discarded. The library also introduced a community garden program that enabled it to give away 140 pounds of produce to community members in its first year.



The certification program for public libraries is now open to libraries nationally. Migell Acosta, director of the San Diego County Library, CA, was the first library leader to sign up when this program opened up beyond the borders of New York state. “During 2021, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors took steps toward making the County of San Diego a more sustainable and transparent organization. The County’s commitment to sustainability is captured in the new vision for the County,” said Acosta. “‘A just, sustainable, and resilient future for all.’ The San Diego County Library embraces this vision and that of the Sustainable Libraries Initiative…. I believe it’s time for all libraries to begin to focus on creating a zero-carbon library as a critical goal for the 21st century. I honor and respect the work of our colleagues in New York and believe it is time for public libraries throughout the nation to join and strengthen their efforts.”

The program also recently announced a partnership with the Vermont Community Foundation and the Vermont Library Association that will enable 16 public libraries in the state to pursue the certification over the next two years. A pilot program for academic libraries is in progress and the first cohort of school librarians is well underway.

All library folks are welcome to sign up for the Sustainable Libraries Initiative’s monthly newsletter and download the newly refreshed Road Map to Sustainability mobile app, launched at the Public Library Association conference in partnership with OCLC, at no charge. Check out the resources list and newsletter archive for more stories from libraries in the program. There is so much we can learn!

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich is Executive Director, Mid-Hudson Library System, Poughkeepsie, NY; a judge for LJ's 2015 New Landmark Libraries; and a 2010 LJ Mover & Shaker.

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