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NYLA Sustainability Initiative (NYLA-SI): An IntroductionLogo - NYLA Sustainability Initiative

by the NYLA Sustainability Committee

The Sustainability Initiative is a movement to help libraries align our profession’s core values and our library’s  resources with the local and global community's right to endure, bounce back from disruption and to thrive by bringing new and energetic life to fruition through choices made in all areas of library operations and outreach.

Sustainability is more than green buildings and energy savings. It’s about economically feasible libraries and communities; environmental stewardship, and high levels of commitment to developing community-driven services, programs and partnerships. We want libraries to be a part of revitalizing and strengthening their communities, and help them bounce back from any disruptions they might face, like severe weather, natural disasters, economic recession, power outages, or terrorism. We want to help libraries help their communities to keep going and grow.  

Because sustainable libraries are community-driven, each library’s efforts will look different. In Kingston, New York, the library adopted the City of Kingston’s Climate Smart Communities and Green Jobs Pledge, which led to a more comfortable library for patrons and staff, reduced energy consumption, and lower energy costs. In Garnerville, New York the Haverstraw King’s Daughters Public Library unveiled a 65 kilowatt solar panel system at its main library which saves the library approximately $13,000 per year. In Red Hook, New York, the library talked to people in their community and identified a lack of leadership and volunteer opportunities for teens and twenty-somethings, along with transportation challenges which limited who could get to the library for the programs and services they offered. In response, the library partnered with the high school, the Recreation Department, the deputy mayor, and nearby Bard College to bring a mobile makerspace to the high school and the town’s day camp. As part of the Sustainability Initiative, we’ll be working to shine a light on sustainable practices in libraries, so we can all learn from our peers.

We have a lot of great people who’ve signed up for the Initiative. To make this happen, they will be creating benchmarks, roadmaps, talking points, resources, and training. Meet our project teams:

Benchmarks - working to define what sustainability looks like in a library and how we can measure it, and to create incentives to get libraries to meet these standards. Current members are Judith Wines, RCS Community Library; Roger Reyes, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Deborah Emerson, Central NY Library Resources Council; Jill Davis, Hendrick Hudson Free Library and Geoff Kirkpatrick, Bethlehem Public Library.

Roadmap - resources to get libraries started and keep them moving towards sustainability. Current members are Kate McCaffrey, Northern Onondaga Public Library; Lisa Matte, Jervis Public Library; Stephen Maher, NYU School of Medicine; Jacie Spoon, Cortland Free Library.

Agents of Change - recruiting leaders in sustainable thinking and empowering them with tools and training, so that sustainable thinking in libraries continues to grow. Current members are Mary Lou Carolan, Cornwall Public Library; Erica Freudenberger, Red Hook Public Library; Victor Canseco, Sandpebble; Ron Kirsop, Pioneer Library System.  

Making the Case - crafting messages to allow you to talk to your community, board, staff, and others about the importance of sustainable libraries. Current members are Casey Conlin, Pawling Free Library; Megan Coder, SUNY New Paltz; Claudia Depkin, Haverstraw King's Daughter Public Library; and Jennifer Ferriss, Southern Adirondack Library System.

Environmental Scan - our own library staff. Researching and feeding all these groups with the information and resources they need. Current members are Todd Schlitt, West Islip Library; Margo Gustina, Southern Tier Library System; Rebecca Miller, Library Journal, School Library Journal and Floyd Memorial Library; Richard Naylor, retired.

We’re committed to keeping libraries effective and important to the people they serve. If you’re interested in becoming part of the initiative or learning more about the project, check out the Sustainability Initiative’s white paper and then reach out to one of the Initiative Committee's co-chairs: Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Mid-Hudson Library System, or Matthew Bollerman, Hauppauge Public Library.

Watch for our weekly Sustainability Spotlight feature in the NYLA News You Can Use email! Think your library is doing something that could be spotlighted? Let us know using this online form.

The New York Library Association’s Sustainability Initiative heartily thanks its early investors: Public Library Systems Directors Organization of New York State (PULISDO); Leadership & Management Section of the New York Library Association (LAMS); Public Library Section of the New York LIbrary Association (PLS); Suffolk Cooperative LIbrary System (SCLS); Suffolk County Library Association (SCLA); and Sandpebble Project Management