Libraries and Sustainability: A Guide

What efforts is your library making to increase sustainability?

Libraries continually find ways to be kinder to the planet.

Public libraries are an excellent resource for knowledge and community aid, but did you know they’re also essential in saving the planet? Over the past few years, libraries have become beacons of sustainability alongside their importance as community centers. Here’s how:

What Libraries Do Now

Today, libraries everywhere are helping improve local sustainability efforts little by little, without us even noticing!

Reducing Waste Through Donations

To start, many public libraries hold book, clothing, or toy drives, which allow people to donate gently used items to the community. These events are great for families in need and help reduce waste by giving old things a new home.

Reusing Books

A library's primary purpose—providing access to books for the community—also helps the environment. Library systems rely on book donations and the borrowing system to function, with millions of books (and paper) being reused daily. 

Your donations help support libraries across the country. 

Expanding Digital Content

The onset of the digital age has also affected libraries; nowadays, many libraries focus on expanding their digital collections so that people can access literature and learning materials without purchasing books from a bookstore.

Providing Educational Resources

Libraries also provide visitors access to a wide variety of books, including educational materials for all ages. Among these materials are ones for environmental change and climate stability, recycling, and ways to help improve the environment.

Sustainability for the Future

As we continue to move forward with sustainability efforts, libraries can do several other things to create a more energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly place in their community.

Placing a Focus on Energy Efficiency

Pledging to develop energy-efficient alternatives is one of the best ways a library can start working toward a more environmentally friendly model. For example, the American Library Association’s plan to create carbon-neutral conferences by 2025 is a great way to emphasize the importance of environmental change and create a goal to work toward. 

Brainstorm ways your library can achieve carbon neutrality with board members and work with local government organizations and energy companies to create your own plan for reaching carbon neutrality.

Take action today to support libraries!

Renovations with Sustainability in Mind

In a similar vein to the previous point, prioritizing environmental friendliness and energy efficiency during maintenance and renovations is essential to creating a sustainable space. Consider your building’s airflow, light levels, and access to fresh air when planning renovations. Insulating curtains can help reduce heating and cooling costs during extreme weather, and using fans to improve air circulation can also help decrease a building’s reliance on air conditioners.

Building More Green Spaces

In addition to indoor maintenance, a library’s outdoor maintenance can help create a more environmentally friendly space. For example, public libraries with extra space can turn their green spaces into community gardens or plant local trees, flowers, and grasses to encourage wildlife activity. Indoors, libraries can incorporate plants in their interior design, which act as excellent air purifiers and are beautiful additions to the decor.

If you’re interested in how you can help build a sustainable public library, check out the American Library Association’s Sustainability Round Table and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions for extra resources!

Visit to learn more about our work on behalf of libraries. 

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