Sustainability Initiative (SI) Update

Submitted by Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, NYLA-SI Co-Chair

NYLA Council Approves Sustainable Library Certification Program; Historic Decision Launches First Benchmarking Initiative of Its Kind

Upon the recommendation of the Sustainability Initiative Committee, NYLA Council has approved a one-of-a-kind opportunity for New York’s public libraries to step up as sustainability leaders in their communities: The Sustainable Library Certification Program.

Council approved the program at their August 10, 2017 meeting, on the recommendation of the NYLA Sustainability Initiative Committee (NYLA-SI), to help realize the goals of the Council’s own Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries. That resolution, passed February 6, 2014, articulated the commitment by NYLA to “...enthusiastically encourage activities by its membership – and itself - to be proactive in their application of sustainable thinking in the areas of their facilities, operations, policy, technology, programming and partnerships.”

The Sustainable Library Certification Program’s cutting-edge benchmarking system is designed to help libraries improve their “triple bottom line” as environmental stewards, economically feasible institutions and as community leaders that place great stock in social equity.

“This initiative exemplifies the commitment of NYLA and our member libraries to community leadership,” said Barbara Stripling, President of the New York Library Association. “It is our willingness to take on important issues, and help our communities find solutions, that ensures that libraries will always be an integral part of our communities.”

Organizations that achieve Certification through this program will:

  1. reinforce their roles as leaders in their communities
  2. ensure that sustainability remains part of their library's process and practice in the future and
  3. receive recognition for their commitment to making their communities more resilient, while making their communities stronger

“NYLA is thrilled to serve as a conduit for this important work, bringing together the efforts and passions of the dedicated members of the Sustainability Initiative,” said Jeremy Johannessen, NYLA Executive Director. “This certification program serves as an important step in ensuring the long-term vitality of the libraries in our state.”

The Committee has worked to create and assess a custom process modeled on what has proven successful in other industries - from the business world (e.g. B Corporation certification), to the world of construction (e.g. Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification), to academia (e.g. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System). This tool fills the void in the library field.

The Sustainable Libraries Certification Program will be the first of its kind in the nation, if not the world. The program is designed to lead a library’s administration, board, and staff through a series of questions and activities that ultimately lead to creating a more sustainable, resilient, and regenerative library that is well positioned to help its community thrive.
Work a library will undertake to strengthen their organizational culture of sustainability through this program will include a variety of activities including an employee survey; policy development; data collection to benchmark resource usage; program design; and outreach efforts in your community. Technical assistance in completing the certification path will be provided.

This program is open to all public libraries in New York. There is a discounted rate structure through the end of 2017 for early adopters. Versions for the academic and school library community are currently in development.

To learn more please visit and sign up for one of the introductory webinars being offered this fall:

  1. Monday, October 16 from 11:00am-12:00pm
  2. Friday, November 17 from 11:00am-12:00pm

Please register online for the session that works best for you.

On the Road Report: SI team members will be at the following events. Don’t miss out on hearing the latest news on sustainability and libraries.

  1. October 13 (Staff) & 14 (Trustees): Monroe County Library System, Rochester, NY
  2. November 8-10: NYLA Annual Conference, Saratoga Spring, NY
    1. Wednesday, November 8: Community Change Agents Event #1 (invitation only)
    2. Thursday, November 9: Libraries are a Powerful Platform for Change (3:45-5:15p)
    3. Friday, November 10: Youth Services Sustainability, Growing Our Own (9:00-10:00a)
    4. Saturday, November 11: Show Us Your Road Map! (9:30-10:30)

Interested in having NYLA-SI come and visit your library or organization to talk about “Sustainable Thinking for Libraries”? Just ask!

Quick Links:

  1. Latest Issue of Sustainable Thinking News focuses on “Sharing is Caring”
  2. Read SI Committee member Rebecca Miller’s editorial in Library Journal: “No Time To Waste: Facing the Reality of a Climate Breakdown
  3. Road Map to Sustainability App now available for Android!
  4. Invest in Success! Your donation allows the NYLA Sustainability Initiative to continue its work to create leadership and provide tools to mobilize libraries to think and act sustainably. All donations are 100% tax deductible. Click here to donate.