Monday, June 14, 2010

Sustainable and Green @ your library: Greener and Eco-Friendly Libraries in the New Century review

The evening of April 15th was the sort of warm sunny evening in early spring that reminds you why it is nice to be outdoors and helps you remember that Canadian winters do not, in fact, last all year. This is not meant to suggest that winter doesn't have its own austere beauty, but the first hints of green always seem to bring a sense of optimism with them at the promise of still greener days just around the corner. Therefore, although the lecture was not held outdoors as some of us might have liked, this particular evening's affirmation of spring's arrival seemed to lend "Sustainable and Green @ your Library: Greener and Eco-Friendly Libraries in the New Century," the CASLIS Toronto hosted lecture by Fred Stoss, an increased poignancy.

Fred, a librarian employed at the SUNY at Buffalo Science and Engineering Library, has been involved in raising the environmental awareness of information professionals for much of his career. He began the lecture by leading the audience through a brief historical overview of the environmental movement, moving from Rachel Carson's Silent Spring to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, and from the more politically targeted environmental activism of the 1960s to the less polarizing, but perhaps more pragmatic and widespread environmental action of today. However, this overview merely established context and the lecture moved quickly to its main focus: actions that librarians can take to make their institutions greener and more sustainable.

Throughout the lecture Fred repeatedly highlighted the need for environmental Information, Communication, and Education (ICE), both for information professionals, as well as for the public provided by information professionals. Doing his part to inform and educate the information professionals present, Fred emphasized the importance of "building green": for example, using natural light to illuminate libraries, installing solar panels, providing structural support for green transportation like bikes, and getting your building LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Furthermore, he stressed critical thinking about the environmental consequences of day-to-day actions and the energy savings that can accrue through simple actions like turning off lights in unused sections of the library (sometimes through motion sensor technology). Attention was also given to the various resources librarians provide and can consult to learn about environmental issues and sustainable actions they can take at their library, for example, the Environment Canada Library or the Canadian Green Building Council.

The final section of the lecture was concerned with suggestions for moving forward in "greening" library conferences and facilities, as well as the roles information professionals can play in providing ICE to the public regarding various environmental issues. Particular attention was given to the education of children (Fred described children as suffering from "nature deficit disorder" due to the increasing amounts of time spent interacting with digital devices) regarding environmental issues, and the resources available to facilitate this education through websites such as and

In the question period that followed, discussions centered around library influence on the publishing industry and its CO2 emissions. For example, one question led to a discussion of the possible environmental benefits that increasing demand for digital documents and open access could engender, through reduction in printing and the associated CO2 emissions. Following the Q&A attendees lingered to discuss the lecture, but eventually dispersed to enjoy what remained of the warm spring evening. Fred’s presentation slides are available from the CASLIS Toronto’s website for viewing.

Chris Gapski
M.I.St Candidate, 2010, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

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