Book Review: Public Libraries Going Green
Kathryn Miller. Chicago, ALA Editions, 2010.
Do you know that light-colored paint makes a room brighter, thus saving on electricity? Are you aware that some publishers offer books printed on tree-free paper? These are just some of the interesting facts presented by Kathryn Miller in her book Public Libraries Going Green. In four chapters (The Library's Green Role, The Library as a Green Place, Green Services at Your Library, and The Library as Green Teacher), Miller describes simple, inexpensive ways that public libraries can go green and in doing so, become positive examples for their communities. She also stresses the importance of providing green programming and supplying the resources patrons need to increase their environmental literacy skills. Although Miller focuses on public libraries, many of the ideas in this book can directly translate to academic and specialized libraries.
In Chapter, 1 Miller describes the first step in going green: the development of an action plan. An effective action plan contains a list of goals along with a clear sense of purpose. One goal may be to obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification through the United States Green Building Council. Or perhaps a library desires to purchase fewer print materials and opt instead for their digital counterparts. Once an action plan has been established, its purpose should be conveyed to stakeholders in the form of a brief message.
A second goal may be to invest in sustainable cleaning agents and environmentally-friendly lighting. These topics, in addition to water efficiency and public transportation, are covered in Chapter 2. When purchasing cleaning agents, Miller cautions not to be fooled by such terms as "nontoxic," "natural," or "biodegradable" as these have no standardized definitions. She recommends analyzing the list of ingredients for harmful chemicals and looking for the Green Seal certification mark to ensure that a product is really earth friendly.
Perhaps a library wishes to develop a greener method of garbage disposal as one of its goals. Miller's Chapter 3 discussion of green services is full of original ideas for handling waste. Do you know, for example, that discarded books are perfect candidates for an artistic medium known as altered book art? You may also be unaware of such websites as Book Prospector and Better World Books where you can sell weeded books. Figures such as "The Altered Art Book Safe Project" and "Literary Scrapbook Altered Book Art Project" provide step-by-step directions for transforming unwanted books into functional, creative items.
As a fourth goal, a library may desire to expand its green programming, a topic outlined in Chapter 4. To spark creativity, Miller includes an example of a summer reading program offered in 2008 by the Chicago Public Library titled "Read Green, Live Green." She also suggests a number of programming ideas such as green fairs, environmental holiday celebrations, and "one book, one community" programs. Detailed instructions are provided for the creation of rain barrels, worm farms, and butterfly gardens as ideal projects for the garden enthusiasts in your community.
A number of helpful resources are included in the final pages. The Pathfinders appendix is a good place to look for age-appropriate materials that may be of interest to patrons. Under Resources, Miller provides a list of green-conscious organizations along with their URLs. Lastly, there is an index of important terms used in the book and the page numbers where they can be found.
Miller's easy-to-read, practical writing style, in addition to supporting tables and figures, makes for a quick, enjoyable read. While many books have been written on the topic of going green, Miller focuses specifically on how libraries fit into the equation. Those who like this book and seek further reading on the subject may consider Sam McBane Mulford's How Green is My Library? In short, Public Libraries Going Green is an inspiring ready-reference resource suited for both new and experienced librarians. Readers are likely to walk away from this book with an arsenal of ideas for transforming their libraries into greener places.
Reviewed by: Amanda Spino, a Youth Services Librarian at the Ocean County Library in Lakewood, NJ. She is an MSLS graduate from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and a 2011 NJLA Emerging Leader.