Green Libraries Are More Than Just Buildings

Article excerpt

Abstract

Many colleges and universities across the United States have adopted sustainability in their curriculum and operations. Academic libraries need to support the mission of their university and therefore must also play their part in sustainability education and operations. The library and information science literature makes it appear that the hallmark of a "green library" is an environmentally friendly building. There are very few academic libraries in the United States that are LEED certified. The author argues that a green library is something more than just the architecture. By using example initiatives and providing recommendations for green library operations, it can be determined that a green library does not necessarily entail a green building, but it does involve a green mission.

Defining green libraries

The phrase "green library" is prevalent in library circles and seems to pervade the library and information science literature; for examples, see Antonelli (2008) and Brown (2003). Although the wealth of literature on how academic libraries contribute to sustainability, the phrase "green library" colloquially refers to a library building that is certified as an environmentally friendly building. This trend implies that a green building is a necessary qualification for a library to be considered a "green library." According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), as of 2013, there are thirteen LEED certified academic libraries in the United States (AASHE, 2013), a U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) certification that stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The certification serves as a way to "provide building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions" (USGBC, n.d.). The exclusivity of the term "green library" is an unfortunate side effect of the allure of a new and environmentally friendly building. A likely unintentional implication, it is still harmful to those libraries that are serious about sustainability and are working to incorporate it into their mission despite the building they are housed in. A green library is not an exclusive club for those fortunate enough to have LEED certification. The author proposes that we shiftthe trend and use the term "green library" to refer to any library that promotes sustainability through education, operations, and outreach.

In their comprehensive literature review, Jankowska and Marcum (2010) identify four major areas of environmental and sustainable issues in the library literature: "(1) Sustainability of scholarship and collections; (2) Green library operations and practices; (3) Green library buildings; and (4) Measuring and improving sustainability" (p. 161). I posit that a true green library is one that promotes sustainability by leading by example and attempts to incorporate sustainability into all aspects of academic librarianship. By engaging in these activities, librarians can support an ethical and academic mission of working within a sustainable lifestyle that will fully envelope their campus and beyond.

The importance of learning about sustainability

Sustainability is "meeting the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs" (United Nations, 1987). Educating students about the importance of sustainability can be found in the curriculum and operations of many colleges and universities across the United States (National Council for Science and the Environment, 2003; Wright, 2002). As of this writing, 665 College and University presidents have signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (President's Climate Commitment, 2012). The commitment states that, "colleges and universities must exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize global warming emissions, and by providing the knowledge and the educated graduates to achieve climate neutrality" ("Commitment Text," n. …