Mancos PL Builds Green

By Tom Peters |

Second Life is good for a lot of things.  Professional networking is one of them.  I have met and worked with so many librarians in Second Life that I probably never would have met if I had confined my professional activities to real life.

A few months ago I met Plautia Corvale, the avatar of Victoria Petersen, the Technology Manager of the Mancos  Public Library in Colorado.  We are, along with several other librarian-avatars, in the process of constructing Emerald City, an island in Second Life devoted to helping libraries and library-related organizations to become more environmentally friendly, and to serve as strong community resources on this topic.

Victoria just returned from the annual conference of the Colorado Association of Libraries with the exciting news that CAL has formed a Second Life Interest Group and is an official sponsor of the Sustainable Living Library on Emerald City in Second Life.

I've never been to Mancos, but I've visited Durango a couple of times. The Durango Public Library has build a new green building, which will open on December 1st. Evidently, southwestern Colorado is a hotbed of green librarianship!  Recently I asked Plautia about some of the nitty gritty aspects of the process of building a green library. 


Was this green building project something the Mancos PL has wanted to do for some time?  

The staff had wanted to create an environmentally friendly building for quite some time. Luckily, we have a board that listens and takes into account staff comment.  

What was the basic process of achieving the organizational decision to build a green library?  

One of the trustees is knowledgeable about the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) process (, and that's where the focus started.     

Were any concerns or objections expressed by library staff, trustees, or community members or groups about this project, or does everyone basically agree that this is the right thing to do? 

Once the LEED Certification Program was thoroughly explained to the Board, they were all for it, and yes, did agree that it was the right thing to do.  The Library hosted community charettes [an intense period of design activity] during the planning process, and for the most part, the general community was extremely excited and supportive of the plan to build a LEED certified building.

Did you decide to go green before you selected an architect? 

Yes, the decision was made very early on to aim for LEED Certification.

How did the architect respond to this challenge/opportunity? 

Our architect, Mr. Dennis Humphries, of Humphries Poli Architects ( Denver, responded quickly and professionally to the entire project.  While LEED is not Humphries’ normal focus, their team of designers worked closely with Ambient Energy, Inc., a LEED consulting firm ( Golden, Colorado).  Humphries Poli strives to build libraries that fit their communities, so in addition to listening to the Board and staff, Mr. Humphries has made several trips to Mancos to get a feel for what the people of our community want.

How have the contractors and subcontractors responded to this challenge/opportunity?  

The decision to go LEED Certified was made before any Request for Proposals went out to contractors.  The chosen contractor, Jaynes Corporation (  Durango, Colorado), has had a number of LEED Certified projects in the past, and even has a LEED expert on staff.  Weekly meetings are held on-site with Jaynes, MPL Board and Staff, and Humphries.

What about going green during the process of building construction?  

Going green is a way of life, and is definitely not added as an afterthought.  The entire process has green steps, from planning, site preparation, construction, and the final touches. 

Are there ways, for example, to reduce, reuse, and recycle the scrap created during any building project?

A LEED designation consists of adding up a total number of ‘points’.  Each and every aspect of building is conducted through this point system; on the lowest end of the points scale is LEED Certification, and it goes on up through LEED Silver, Gold and Platinum.  Even though we just broke ground and started building in September 2008, we have already accumulated our first LEED point – a special recycling dumpster is on site and monitored by Jaynes staff.  Every LEED point is reviewed by the Jaynes LEED staff, a report is created, and finally submitted to the USGBC for approval.

How have the Mancos PL patrons responded to this project? 

Better than we could have hoped for, actually!  Almost every day we receive positive feedback on the process, and many visit our building project blog frequently (  The Library has and is also hosting a number of “Library Receptions”; interested members of the community host these receptions in their homes and invite their friends.  Library staff caters the reception, answers questions about the project, and also makes a formal presentation using pictures and slides, 3-D models, and material samples.

What types of technologies will you be using to make the new library a green building and information environment? 

Everything from using low-fuel light bulbs to installing high-end energy systems.  There are quite a few; some of my favorites include a photovoltaic system, an energy-efficient Heating Venting and Air Conditioning unit, which also improves indoor air quality, and a solar collector wall.  The solar wall is basically a double-layer wall that traps heat from the sun; this heat in turn helps to provide heating for the building.  We are also looking at several changes in our technology infrastructure to be able to use less energy.

What types of technologies will you be avoiding in the new library because they are essentially not very environmentally friendly? 

Being librarians, of course we love researching!  Every new article that we read, or green website that we find, helps us to make an informed decision.  Every surface, nut, and bolt of the new library has been chosen because it is a ‘greener’ product than what we found at first.

What have been some of the major sticking points or bones of contention? (For example, I think you mentioned a rousing debate around the issue of electric hand dryers in restrooms versus paper/cloth towels.) 

Yes, that is one of the fun conversations we’ve been having throughout this project.  A staff member posted a question about what was greener – an electric hand dryer, or paper towels?  Several staff members were debating on our Staff Portal, and our Director, Patsy Smith, sent the question on to our LEED Consultant, Renee Azerbegi of Ambient.  Ms. Azerbegi responded that while the best thing is really damp pants, electric dryers are typically greener.  So, we’re leaning in that direction, as most of the staff expressed their preference for electric dryers.  And regarding bones of contention, we’ve been lucky to avoid most of those.  We’ve had typical things happen, like anyone building a new structure; different people like different things, so we’ve had to deal with these differences in opinion.  Mainly these issues have all been aesthetic.

What is the process of applying for LEED certification? 

First, the project needs to be registered with the USGBC.  Every LEED point requires a report to be submitted, and there are periodic reviews by USGBC.  Once the project has had a Final Review and is approved, the building is designated as LEED Certified, and an award is given.

Overall, do you think that building a green library has been more expensive, about the same, or less expensive than building a "traditional" library building?  You can answer that strictly in terms of building costs, or the costs spread out over the anticipated life of the building.   

Wow, it’s been hard to start building in this economy.  Our initial bids came in almost a quarter of a million dollars over budget.  Steel prices were shooting way up, everything kept going up.  We had to wait a few more months, apply for more grants, and hope the next round of bidding went better.  It did, and we were finally able to start this September.  Some things may be more expensive at the beginning, but you have to be strong and look at the long view.  Many things pay for themselves in a few years, and then energy savings kick in.  Over the lifetime of the building, the Library, and therefore the Library District, will save money.  Money we can use to create better programs and services for our community, money we can use to buy more library materials.

What information resources have you used to find answers to your questions about building a green building?  

We use the resources of our consultants, namely Ambient.  They send us relevant articles to respond to our questions, or conduct some of the more in-depth research for us.  For ideas, we surf the web and also read green blogs.  Two of my favorite sites are “Going Green @ Your Library” ( and “Best Green Blogs” (, which is a directory of green blogs.

What gaps have you discovered in the knowledge sphere about green library buildings?  Are there some questions or decisions that have been really difficult to answer or decide because of the lack of current, reliable information, or at least the difficulty in finding that type of information? 

At this time we have yet to find an official “Green Library Movement”.  Information is scattered all over the Internet; many don’t know where to find this information, and library stuff is patchy.  I was recently speaking to a government webdesigner (agency withheld) that had collected resources about green libraries in
Colorado.  This government agency did not know about our LEED Silver project, which granted, has just started – but they also did not know about the new LEED Gold Durango Public Library, which is finished and will open next month!  But we’ve hired good people, and they give us great information.  I’m thinking it would be nice to contact other libraries of course for advice, but also to connect as a sort of support group.  It would have been really nice to have been able to really communicate with other librarians that have been through the LEED building process.

What advice do you have for other libraries that are seriously considering a green building project? 

Do it!  Yes, it’s a lot of work, a lot of learning, but that goes with any building project.  Planning for eventual energy savings and helping our staff and patrons lead healthier lives is smart business.

Building a green library is great, but building any library building is a relatively rare occurrence.  Day-to-day green behaviors and practices by library staff members and patrons is a related but separate issue, correct?  Is the Mancos PL undertaking any initiatives to make these day-to-day behaviors more environmentally friendly?  

We know our workflows will change in the new library, some we cannot even fathom at this time.  However, we have several very environmentally-conscious staff, and we’re very aware of things that can be done.  In our current library we have recycling bins for paper, plastic and glass.  Staff that lives close to the library either walks or rides their bikes to work.  We also have our popular “green printing” program; patron copies made on recycled/reused paper are 75% cheaper than printing on regular paper. So we already have commitment.  We’ll continue these programs, plus more.  In the new library we’ll be opening our recycling program up to the public, and that’s a big deal for a town that got their first recycling drop-off at the school last year!

I noticed on the building project blog that the original construction estimate was over budget and had to be revised downward.  Did that process involve any compromises on the effort to build a green library?  

Not technically.  The Board met and ranked certain high dollar items by priority.  If we had to, some items would be left out of the initial building project.  We were ready with a secondary building schedule, so that all or most of the items would eventually be built.  Our final bidding round went very well, and with another grant we have since applied for and received, we’re back on track.

What are you most proud of about this green building project? 

An aspect of LEED is to teach others about sustainable building and living.  MPL is very dedicated to spreading the word, and to providing resources about all things green.  We’ve already started the documentation of our project on our building project blog, which will serve as a historical resource.  In the new library, we will have a room devoted to green exhibits, as well as a special collection of green library materials.  We hope to become an environmental leader in not only building design, but also to be a leader in educating everyone we can about sustainable living.

If you could start all over and do this project again, is there anything you would do differently? 

We’re very happy with how everything has turned out, but I suppose we would have liked to be better informed ourselves.  Some days we feel that we have two jobs – being a librarian, and being a project owner/LEED expert/secretary/treasurer/accountant, etc.  It’s been a crazy last few years, but we know it’s all worth it!