Monday, May 16, 2011

CALL Conference Session - Going Green at Your Law Library

This afternoon, at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL) in Calgary, there was a session on Going Green at your Law Library: Learning from Calgary Public Library's Eco-Action Team.

The session was organized by CALL's Courthouse and Law Society Libraries Special Interest Group. There were three presenters from the Calgary Public Library (CPL).

Rosemary Griebel explained that libraries are natural institutions for green policies given the fact that they are founded on the principle of re-use. As well, as institutions seen by the greater public as neutral, they are well placed to demonstrate leadership in educating the public on green initiatives.

She provided an outline of CPL's Eco-Action Plan and the many challenges that an organization can face when trying to adopt environmentally progressive policies and practices. What is crucial according to her is getting the messaging right by telling a powerful story: no one really cares if you recycled 2 tons of old books, but telling them that you sent those books to be recycled into roofing materials might grab their attention. Maybe they have Margaret Atwood on their roof.

Kathryn Nikolaychuk then took the podium to offer details about CPL's green approach to facilities and purchasing. She explained that the system-wide plan (carried out in 17 branches) went first for the "low-hanging fruit", things that are simpler to accomplish initially and that show momentum. This included changing light fixtures, low-flow plumbing etc. The Eco-Action team found that they achieved the biggest bang for the eco-buck in a suprising place: housekeeping products (cleansers, wipes, etc.)

Another issue to examine is where the library gets its energy from. Not all libraries control their facilities (especially if they are located in a courthouse), but there may be portential actions there as well.

In terms of purchasing, CPL opted for bulk buying with other like-minded organizations to get better prices for green products and they switched the models of library delivery trucks they use.

For other libraries, Nikolaychuk suggested a number of actions: think of the entire lifecycle of a product and ask (or negotiate) for the vendor to take back the product when its life is over (she gave the example of a vendor that recycles old photocopier components); always ask product vendors if they have a greener option; investigate alternative sources for products.

Finally Susan Anderson talked about staff engagement. Her suggestions for "selling" green initiatives included finding green colleagues across sectors of the organization, creating informal groups (she gave the example of an Earth Day committee), connecting with local green organizations, building staff support through lectures on eating locally or healthy greener homes, etc. This all assumes that management has bought into the plan.

She emphasized that one area that can a big impact on how staff thinks about ecological issues is the staff room. Things that can be changed include what coffee is used (fair trade or organic), the dish soap and cleaning products, getting rid of bottled water, turning off vending machine lights at night or weekends (and checking the products in those machines), etc.

Not every institution may be able to go as far as CPL (their new buildings have to conform to international LEED environmental standards and renovations to existing facilities must also respect LEED criteria) but all libraries are capable of initiating some changes.

There is a lot more practical information on the CPL's Eco-Action blog.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:00 pm


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