Sustainable Library Certification Program

Step-by-step guidance to help your library

become a sustainability leader in your community.


Creating sustainable communities starts by creating a sustainable library.
New Yorkers need libraries that lead the way.

The Sustainable Library Certification Program is a cutting-edge, one-of-a-kind benchmarking system which helps you position your library as a community leader, helping to make the world a better place while proving that libraries are a smart investment for our future.

The program will lead your library’s administration, board, and staff through a series of activities that result in the creation of an organizational culture in your library that will position the library to contribute to the creation of a more sustainable, resilient, and regenerative community. 

Watch the video here for an introduction, or read below for more info.


Public Library Certification Details

School Library Certification Details

Academic Library Certification Details


What’s in it for my library?

  1. Step-by-step guidance across 12 categories related to environmental stewardship, economic feasibility of your library and social equity issues both in your library and in your community
  2. Technical assistance from industry experts
  3. A library that operates more efficiently and effectively, using fewer resources and saving money
  4. The opportunity to strengthen your library for the future by creating an organizational culture that asks the right questions when making operational and outreach decisions while inspiring your community and colleagues
  5. Recognition at the local and state level for your leadership


Is this program just about “going green”?


The word sustainability is used a lot in our world. It is used when we talk about funding for our library, the environment, the capacity of an organization, the lifecycle of a product. It’s all over the place. When attempting to convey an idea it is important to have an agreed upon interpretation of words and context.

The NYLA-SI uses the Triple Bottom Line interpretation of the word sustainability. At its simplest definition sustainability is “the capacity to endure.” Can a system, organization, process or product continue on with the current resources necessary to make it successful?

The Triple Bottom Line is an accounting framework with three components, often referred to as the Three Es of Sustainability:

  1. Social equity
  2. Environmental stewardship
  3. Economic feasibility

For a library or community to be truly sustainable it must take all three of these components into consideration. We must find balance in the three Es to achieve sustainability. The Sustainable Library Certification Program is designed to help your library create an organizational culture that uses this lens through which to make operational and outreach decisions to the best advantage for your library and your community.

This means you will engage in activities across a dozen categories that work together to create a sustainable library. The categories encompass environmentally related issues, financial planning and social equity issues in the areas of:

  1. Organizational Commitment
  2. Partnerships & Community Involvement
  3. Social Equity and Resiliency
  4. Financial Sustainability
  5. Collections
  6. Energy & Water Usage
  7. Materials Management
  8. Transportation
  9. Land Use


What type of activities will we engage in?

The work your library will undertake to strengthen your organizational culture of sustainability 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.

Proprietary performance tools are used to calculate the economic and environmental impacts of energy, travel, waste, water, and refrigerants in an organization, while staff surveys gauge behavioral impacts.


Who does the work?

No one person in your organization can do the work. The program is designed to help you build consensus and develop teams and events that bring the stakeholders of your organization together so that you are all going in the same direction.

You will need a champion, someone who keeps the process on track and is the chief person documenting the work so that you can prove you've done things but that person deserves support and will be working with a team that is created early in your process.


Will there be support for our library to go through this process?


  1. Embedded with each activity in the program will be resources, examples, and templates for you to learn from. No need to re-create the wheel
  2. Technical advisors from the Green Business Partnership will be available to you to help with the environmental-related benchmarking activities
  3. Technical advisors from the NYLA-SI, proven library professionals, will be available to you to help with the library development benchmarking activities
  4. Online meet-ups and learning opportunities will be provided on a regular basis
  5. In-person meet-ups will be planned to coincide with the NYLA Conference and NYLA Advocacy Day


How much does it cost?

Until March 31, 2018


New Certification












Starting April 1, 2018


New Certification


















Please note: If you are enrolling multiple locations contact for annual dues amount.


Why is there a cost?

The fee underwrites the cost of the development and administration of the software that provides the infrastructure for collating your work through this program; access to the proprietary Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Tool©, to help libraries measure, track and reduce negative environmental impacts over time; access to technical support for your library and NYLA’s administrative costs.

Given the level of organizational commitment, a library will need to have to tackle this major culture shift for their organization an investment at the fee levels noted seems reasonable to the NYLA-SI Committee and NYLA Council. The guidance a library receives both through the guided questions and activities and technical support from the staff at Team Green Spirit, the contractors that work on the GBP program, alone are offered at a fair market value.

While post-certification costs are optional for the participating library it should be noted that sustainability is a journey, not a destination. The value of continuing on with post-certification costs for the library is the opportunity to track change over time, to prove that the work that they did to become certified is having the desired outcomes for their organization and their impact on the environment. Post-certification feed ensures access to the web platform and toolkit providing the ability to measure greenhouse gas emissions annually, download sustainability reports and demonstrate improvement over time. It also ensures continued access to staff/expertise and trained interns.

You will note an increase in the pricing structure between 2017-2018, this is to both incentivize early adoption of the program by libraries and to accommodate the introduction of a new online portal and administration tool that will go live in late 2017 and is planned to greatly streamline the experience for libraries. We have negotiated the reduced pricing structure for any library that joins before the end of 2017.

With the introduction of the new portal, NYLA will have administrative access which will allow us to access participating libraries’ data to both support libraries in their process as well as to pull data for marketing and advocacy purposes. For example, over time we will be able to access hard data that demonstrates the energy reduction savings of libraries participating in the program.


What happens when we complete the certification program?

The capstone activity for completion will be a presentation made online or at the NYLA Conference.

Once complete:

  1. NYLA will work with your library to issue a press release locally and statewide
  2. Libraries are encouraged to celebrate the accomplishment by holding a certification ceremony where local, county and state leaders honor your achievement before staff, stakeholders and invited guests
  3. Certified libraries receive a framed certificate and digital use of the certified seal
  4. An article about your achievement will be distributed through the NYLA-SI newsletter and NYLA eBulletin
  5. Certified libraries will be publicly acknowledged at the NYLA Annual Conference Awards Ceremony


How do we get started?

It's as simple a 1-2-3: There are three items that you must submit to enroll in the program.

  1. Complete the Sustainable Library Certification Program Registration
  2. Mail in your signed copy of the Sustainable Library Certification Program Membership Terms, Conditions, & Agreement to NYLA Headquarters (6021 State Farm Rd. Guilderland, NY 12084)
  3. Submit payment


Who can I speak with if I have more questions?

You are welcome to send questions to

Also: View this recorded webinar that may answer questions you may have that are not answered here.


School Library Certification Details

We are currently working with representatives from school libraries to develop meaningful measurements and goals for sustainability in school libraries. In the meantime:

  1. Consider becoming a certified as a Green Classroom Professional through the US Green Building Council
  2. Learn more about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals
  3. Learn more about Green Ribbon Schools, a program of the U.S. Department of Education and find out this program is right for your school.

Academic Library Certification Details

We are currently working with representatives from academic libraries to develop meaningful measurements and goals for sustainability in academic libraries. In the meantime:

  1. Consider becoming a certified as a Green Classroom Professional through the US Green Building Council
  2. Learn more about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals
  3. Learn more about the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE STARS) and find out if your institution is part of this program