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3 ways to get your library on board with the COP26 initiative

Accelerating deep collaboration: 26 built environment climate action initiatives announced. 

While we all know in our hearts and minds, that libraries are and will forever be SO much more than buildings with books, we are, nonetheless and in actual fact, buildings with books. And those buildings, (and also the books, but we’ll look at that in another blog post) have cost the planet to build in terms of embodied carbon and continue to cost the planet in terms of energy and maintenance. 

Of course, there have been giant leaps and bounds in energy efficient building design and incredible new libraries erected all over the world, that reflect care for the environment as well as the community. However, many of us will never work in a new library and must do what we can with what we have. In these instances, we must try to bring our administration on board with new thinking when it comes to retrofits that improve our carbon footprint as much as possible.

1. Install renewable energy sources. It’s a bit of a no brainer however, many organisations, particularly small local councils struggling with shrinking budgets, may not see the long term benefits of changing to up to renewables as it is overshadowed by the initial cost. This is where we, as librarians come into our own. We are after all, researchers!

Catch and corner councillors, your Mayor, CEO and directors and ask the question, “When (not if) will we be moving all council building assets to solar and/or wind power?” Back up the question with a boat load of information on how renewables can be acquired locally, along with any financial support available via State or Federal governments. Then just keep on asking, keep on emailing information, keep on it. They will eventually get tired of the nag and do something.

2. Refurbishing doesn’t necessarily mean “new”. Library fit outs cost the proverbial arm and a leg, and in my experience, the much touted ‘state of the art’ furniture and fittings are sometimes not fit for purpose and not well lasting for the traffic they receive. If you have the opportunity to contribute to refurbishing choices consider going rustic, quirky and repurposed. Second hand reupholstered chairs in mismatched colours look fabulous, and more like a comfy living room than a sterile clinic. Rather than carbon intensive melamine tables and plastic chairs, seek out sustainable alternatives such as bamboo or recycled plastic or repurposed timber. The money saved will always find a use within your library service, and you’ll be the talk of the town!

3. Make use of your community artists, photographers, historians, or anyone that can create something to put on a wall. I doubt there are many, if any, communities that house a library that is not also home to a myriad of clever people that fashion beautiful things. Not only can these creations brighten up walls and stack ends, they provide exposure and purpose for the creatives, be they individuals or groups. Stories can be art pieces for display as well. Do you have a local history or family history group? A short biography with an accompanying photo about a few noted local pioneers, for example, in frames made from repurposed timber by the local woodworking group, can make a brilliant display. 

Wall showing a row of artworks and painting by local artists
Promoting local talent in library spaces

Not all library staff are destined for the management positions that provide the opportunities for us to actually make the decisions exampled above when our libraries are being built or renovated. However, if we ban together and place pressure on the decision makers to ‘think outside the square’, ‘change things up’, and put the planet on at least an equal footing with the community for the long term, then those decisions might make a positive turn. We just have to speak up!  

By Donna Kellion, ALIA Sustainable Libraries Group Member

(Feature image – Sydney’s Darling Square Library)


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