Sustainability Challenges for Libraries

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

Guest Bloggers: Louise Mosnik and Loretta Strharsky

Fort Collins, CO, Library, Harry Strharsky
Poudre River Library District, Fort Collins

Photo: Harry Strharsky

We know libraries. We check out books be they audio or print copies, movies, magazines and newspapers; we download books, magazines, videos. We bring our children to the play area, have them find books they want to read and get them a library card. Libraries offer meeting spaces, community forums, assistance for businesses and non-profits. We use libraries for help with grant writing, genealogy and even auto repair manuals. And this is just a few of libraries’ offerings.

But behind the scenes of book shelves and play areas, there are libraries making contributions to sustainability. Here’s one library’s advances on library waste reduction, staff education, and district policies and procedures.

The Poudre River Library District in Fort Collins, Colorado has been a partner in the City of Fort Collins’ ClimateWise program for the past eleven years. This program “offers simple solutions to help Fort Collins Businesses reduce their impact, save money and gain recognition for their achievements in energy and water conservation, waste reduction, alternative transportation and social responsibility.” The Library District took four years, but has achieved a platinum record, the highest level, and maintained it for seven years in a row.

To implement sustainability goals, Poudre Libraries established a Green Team to help develop policies and procedures. In addition, the District established a budget line item for sustainability. The Green Team’s work can only be described as impressive. As well as their regular library duties at each site, a staff person is identified as A Green Team member. Their tasks are to encourage staff individuals to be recycle-wise, to participate in training staff on reducing, repurposing, reusing, and recycling as it is exemplified at the library, to be aware of ongoing challenges for sustainability and share that information via signage, emails and at staff meetings.

This all sounds pretty amorphous, without any concrete results. But let’s look more closely at the Poudre River Public Library District, a medium-sized district comprised of three libraries, one administrative office and one collections development site. With over 200,000 people in the service area serving more than 2,800 people a day and checking out nearly 8,000 collection items daily, it is no wonder there is a lot that can be recycled and reused.