Librarians Speak Up
How is your library helping take care of the environment?
The Emory University Libraries’ commitment to the environment ranges from the micro to the macro. In 1989, Emory Libraries staff established LEAF (Library Environmental Action Force) which became the model for our university’s campus-wide white paper recycling program. Library staff subsequently served as members of the Emory Recycling Committee. The Emory Committee on the Environment, a faculty senate committee charged with assessing environmental impacts of proposed campus capital projects, was recently chaired by a librarian and today includes librarians among its members.
A 1998 addition to the Woodruff Library (originally built in 1969) spanned an adjacent natural ravine. The landscape was rehabilitated and repopulated with plant species native to Atlanta’s piedmont region. Library staff now participate in campus-sponsored ivy pulls to reduce the incidence of non-native invasive species in the ravine.
At the macro level, Emory University has embraced the principles of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design), which promotes environmentally friendly building design and construction practices. The 2003 addition to and renovation of Emory’s Candler Library (originally built in 1926) attained a silver LEED rating, and was the first renovation project on campus to be LEED-certified.
The British Petroleum Library’s mission is to serve BP users all over the planet. Through our work, we help support the environment as we help our users.
Our library staff helps maintain BP’s Green Operations, a virtual environmental tool providing access to BP's environmental “know how” along with internal and external websites. By providing content for this site, we assist BP groups like Educational Service, which has just launched an online version of its Carbon Footprint Toolkit, and targetneutral, a voluntary, nonprofit partnership initiative from BP to “neutralize” CO2 emissions caused by driving. As another example of our work in support of the environment, recently we helped a BP business unit obtain permission to show Al Gore’s environmental film “An Inconvenient Truth.”
As a professional librarian, I’ve encouraged the Special Library Association’s petroleum and energy division and Illinois chapter to work with the World Computer Exchange. By helping WCE “bridge the global digital divide,” we keep computers out of landfills and help the environment.
The Library of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute in Nagpur, India provides comprehensive information support to scientists devoted to research regarding India’s environment. The research focuses on aspects such as air quality, water and wastewater management, solid and hazardous wastes, sustainable development, cleaner technology, environmental materials, environmental biotechnology and genomics, environmental modeling and sanitation. The stakeholders are government agencies, industries, academia and the general public.
The library provides access to scholarly literature comprising bibliographic and full-text digital and printed information resources. Online access to journals from various platforms including Elsevier’s ScienceDirect and to major A&I databases is available. Our core activities include providing physical and electronic collections; developing in-house databases of books and Indian articles; document supply; and participation in information networks. Our added activities include creating research guides. “River Ganga: An Overview of Environmental Research” consolidated information on 30 years of research and served as a base document for scientists devoted to making the Ganga River pollution-free.
Our library sees empowering our scientists with knowledge as essential to their ability to resolve environmental issues. How does our library take care of the environment? The answer is simple: in each and every service we provide.
As a research library, we actually are quite a big environmental polluter when measured in terms of paper consumption. We provide electronic access to the scientific literature as much as possible, but understandably readers do not like reading from the screen. They print and print and print.
However, our printers and copy machines are filled with recycled paper, and we have recycling collection cans for paper, cardboard, plastic and other material. Moreover, the library is housed in a so-called "zero-energy building," i.e., a building without a conventional heating and cooling system. In the winter, surprisingly enough, sufficient heat appears to be generated by us individuals ourselves, and by the computers, the lights and sunlight coming in from outside. In the summer, an intelligent ventilation system and an outer façade consisting of rotatable blue glass panels produce an agreeable temperature. A photovoltaic solar energy system covers one-third of the building's electricity and an extensively greened roof retains and harvests rainwater to flush NoMix Toilets featuring separate collection of urine.
We do not need to feel ashamed! If you happen to be in Switzerland, why not visit us? You are welcome.
In October 2006, a 6,300 square-feet photovoltaic array of solar energy panels was installed on the roof of Norton Hall at the University at Buffalo. In the adjacent building, Capen Hall, the UB Science and Engineering Library offers a "picture window view" of the array, and offers an educational exhibit about the solar project as well as energy conservation and alternative energy.
The "Energy for the Future" library exhibit features a Solar Lounge overlooking the solar energy array. In the lounge, visitors can get details on the energy output of the array, or watch movies about energy and the environment, or visit energy-themed websites. The exhibit also includes “The Turbine Wall,” a 40-foot display modeled after a wind-turbine blade. This display features educational panels about global warming, energy conservation and alternative energy, such as wind, solar and hydrogen power.
Further our library offers a companion guide identifying relevant bibliographic and reference databases, books, technical reports, journal and magazine articles, statistics and other information related to "energy," from its exploration to research, delivery, use and impacts to the environment.
Five Quick Questions
How is your library helping the environment?
The design of the Frederick Lanchester Building, which opened in 2000, reflects a modern interpretation of some ancient technologies. It has almost no air conditioning, but is instead naturally ventilated. Air enters beneath the ground floor, is heated or cooled if necessary, and in response to sensors flows onto the floors via four light wells. The sensors decide if the building needs heated, cooled or fresh air to circulate. The air vents via distinctive “chimneys” around the perimeter of the building. These draw the air through the building and use the same operating principle as an open fire. The light wells also bring natural light into the building, reducing our reliance on artificial light. Further, the lighting system is dynamic, reacting to levels of natural light and significantly reducing our demand for power. The building operates at around 50% of the cost of a conventional air-conditioned building.
What led your library to construct a green building?
For many years Coventry University has maintained a strong commitment to serving as a good steward of the environment and has earned a national and possibly international reputation for employing combined heat and power (CHP) technology to maximize energy efficiency. When it came time for the library to expand, the university was clear that any new building had to be as energy-efficient as possible. Hence our new library uses CHP technology among other green measures.
There was no direct financial incentive, just the knowledge that we were helping to save the planet. But of course if the university saves on energy costs that frees up money to be spent on other things including meeting library needs.
What do your staff and users think about the green building?
The response has been very positive. There are the inevitable ongoing problems that any building has, but satisfaction of both library staff and customers rose significantly compared with the approval levels of our old library buildings where the temperature could vary between 54° and 94°F depending on the season. There is now more even temperature control and after more than six years no obvious tricky side effects.
What awards has the building received?
Our new library building has won seven awards including three for its environmental features and the SCONUL Library Design Award in 2002. The building also continues to attract interest from architects and librarians worldwide.
Do you know of other green libraries?
Alan Short, the architect who designed our new library building, has worked on other libraries using CHP technology. One opened recently at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. Many newly built libraries though employ variations on this or other technologies and have some claims to enhanced energy efficiency.