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#CILIPSGoGreen – Environmental Resources for Libraries and Librarians

Background image with thanks to Freddie Ramm from Pexels

‘If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need,’ observed Cicero in a letter dating from 46 B.C., and libraries today are playing an essential role in tackling the climate crisis. With COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, taking place in Glasgow from 1-12th November 2021, it has never been more vital for our profession to play its part in encouraging change, combating misinformation about the stark reality of the climate crisis, and embedding sustainable practices into our ways of working. This evolving resource collection is designed to support LIS professionals as we all seek to grow our environmental consciousness – if you have any further recommendations or ideas for what you’d like to see on this page, please feel free to get in touch at

Inspiration Station – Library Sustainability Around the World

  • Did you hear Bridget McKenzie, Founding Director of Climate Museum UK, address our annual conference #CILIPS21 about what libraries can do to help tackle the earth crisis? If you missed it (or want to watch again), catch her rousing and inspiring keynote here.
  • Climate Beacons for COP26 is a nationwide collaboration between environmental organisations and the arts, heritage and cultural sector to stimulate long-term public engagement with climate action. Many congratulations to Inverclyde Libraries and Western Isles Libraries for both becoming key partners within their regional beacons, along with all the library services across Scotland who will be contributing to the project. Thank you also to the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) for supporting Scotland’s Climate Beacons throughout!
  • This brilliant blog by Sophie Robinson at Glasgow Women’s Library offers an in-depth yet accessible overview of what COP26 is, its significance for Scotland (and the world) and how you can get involved…
  • #LibrariesAreEssential to tackling misinformation and providing accurate, evidence-based knowledge about the reality of climate change. Visit this page on the National Library of Scotland’s Map Images website for some vivid visual examples of how their research is illustrating the impact of human activity on the environment.
  • The Sir Alex Ferguson Library at Glasgow Caledonian University opens up into the beautiful Saltire garden, a calming green space where students, researchers and all other library users can come together and relax or just enjoy some quiet contemplation (always better with birdsong)! There is considerable evidence to suggest that incorporating nature into your library – even simple window boxes or a small collection of plants – can have a beneficial impact on both staff and community wellbeing. Click here to read CILIPS Membership Officer Kirsten’s Information Professional article outlining how ‘outdoor spaces help libraries to grow’.
  • Looking for inspiration in getting started? Library Planet is a crowdsourced library travel guide where you can glimpse what life is like inside libraries all over the world. What about a roof garden like that of Vejen Public Library in Denmark or Aarhus University Library where an abstract shape of greenery swirls around the atrium?
  •  If you find yourself still needing to persuade people that greening your library scene is a worthwhile step forward, remind them that there is an ‘extensive and robust body of evidence’ connecting access to green spaces with reduced mortality and specifically ‘healthier heart rates, blood pressure, vitamin D levels, cortisol levels and recuperation rates’ (‘Evidence Statement on the links between natural environments and human health).
  • The 2020 Spaces to Thrive report, based on research conducted by Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Sheffield, and produced with The National Lottery Community Fund, also demonstrates the essential value that green spaces have in terms of health, wellbeing and social integration – just like libraries themselves!
  • Research published by Plymouth University has highlighted how outside activities help young people to develop skills in self-directed and creative learning – ideal for any of our spectacular school librarians who fancy taking their charges into the great outdoors!
  • Libraries and Gardens: Growing Together by Carrie Scott Banks and Cindy Mediavilla (2019) explores a variety of library-garden case studies to demonstrate how they have the potential to improve community engagement, cohesion and health. You can read an interview with the authors here and don’t miss the accompanying episode of the American Libraries ‘Call Number’ podcast – listen here for free.
  • Sustainability is a key concern for contemporary architecture, and that’s certainly true when planning to build/adapt library spaces. New Libraries in Old Buildings – Creative Reuse is a 2021 publication by IFLA featuring international examples of best practice, and they’ve very generously made the book free to read online as a PDF or EPUB.
  • Closer to home, this Heritage Fund case study of Saughton Park in Edinburgh highlights the many opportunities that green spaces present for citizens, noting how the park ‘offer[s] a welcoming environment for marginalised people that is undemanding and inclusive’. That sounds a lot like the evidence we gathered on why #LibrariesAreEssential too!
  • Seed libraries let us combine our place at their heart of our communities with promoting sustainable consumption and locally-produced food. Glasgow Women’s Library, for example, welcomed visitors back after lockdown by hosting a collaboration with Glasgow Seed Library, allowing library users to pick up free packets of seeds along with advice for how to get growing. Glasgow Seed Library continues to be a free resource available to anyone who wants to get started – all they ask is that you aim to return some seeds at the end of the season in order to quite literally germinate the project next year!
  • Boulder Public Library in the United States also runs a ‘Seed to Table’ initiative through which library users can take home up to five free packets of vegetable, herb or flower seeds: even more essential for those who may struggle to access affordable and healthy food from other sources.
  • The Nature Library is a pop-up reading space connecting people to land, sky and sea. Appearing in public spaces across Scotland, its travelling shelves hold many branches of nature writing from the classic to the contemporary, fiction and non fiction, memoir, poetry and children’s books. Click here to follow its journey!
  • ‘The building is attached to the rock face, the river runs along the other side of the structure, and there is even a tree growing through the roof.’ Zheshui Natural Library is located in the Taihang Mountains, Shanxi, and was both commissioned and constructed by the villagers who use it. Click here to learn more about this environmentally conscious (not to mention incredibly beautiful) library: the well-deserved winner of the 2021 Design Educates Award for architectural design.

From Little Acorns Grow Great Oaks… Small, Sustainable Changes for All

  • Climate Museum UK is a mobile and digital museum that brings together people from across the UK to champion sustainability and raise awareness of the earth crisis. Founded by Director Bridget McKenzie (who spoke eloquently at #CILIPS21 about the essential role libraries can play in inspiring positive change), the Climate Museum UK website offers some helpful and practical advice for making positive changes. Check out their alternative ideas for events and celebrations (think sustainable catering and no balloons!) or their top picks for low-footprint living.
  • They have also created this fascinating guide to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – essential reading for anyone who wants to prove to their library community that climate consciousness is a vital step which will benefit all. For instance, do you know why some research indicates that improved education for girls is the most effective climate action a country can take?
  • This BBC article also asked eco-bloggers to share their recommendations for how to integrate sustainability into our daily lives. The advice is broken down into ‘fashion’, ‘food’, ‘beauty’ and ‘travel’. The Guardian likewise identified these ’50 simple ways’ to make your life greener – buy only what you need in every area is a common thread!
  • IFLA’s Environmental Sustainability and Libraries Special Interest Group (ENSULIB) presents an annual IFLA Green Library Award to a library committed to sustainability – and as anyone who attended the CILIP Ireland/Library Association of Ireland 2021 conference will know, University College Cork Library received special recognition in 2019! Their ‘Love Our Library’ campaign inspired positive change amongst staff and students through strategies like turning the lights off in low-traffic areas of the library during the summer months, installing a ‘Living Wall’ to harness many of the green health benefits outlined above and prohibiting disposable coffee cups (instead, library users can bring their own or buy sugar cane water bottles/bamboo mugs from the library desk). Investing in a dishwasher also meant that library meetings and events did not need to use disposable cups and plates – saving an incredible 1000 of them every month!
  • Is your library community up for a creative challenge to raise awareness of the climate crisis? Supported by Screen Scotland and Keep Scotland Beautiful, Climate Challenge: 1.5° Films is asking the public to create 90 second short films that explore their relationships with the environment and how climate change affects them, their surroundings, and their community. Youth groups, schools, community organisations, activist groups and individuals of all ages, abilities and filmmaking experience will soon be invited to take part – click here to find out more or express interest in your library participating by emailing
  • Have a bright idea for a way to grow environmental consciousness in your community? The #COP26Conversation Fund (created in collaboration between Museums Galleries Scotland, the Scottish Library and Information Council and Historic Environment Scotland) will provide small grants of up to £1,000 for libraries, museums and historic environment organisations to host small scale, community focused events and activities in the build up to and during COP26. Click here for further details and how to apply – we can’t wait to find out what you come up with, #CILIPSGoGreen team!

Between now and COP26, we’ll continue to research the best strategies for Scottish libraries that want to enhance their environmental credentials. From what we’ve learned so far, here are three top tips from CILIPS:

  1. Librarians are leaders! Whatever your sector, your users look to you to set an example – if you show them that being green is both achievable and valuable, they’re far more likely to follow suit. Sit your reusable water bottle/coffee cup proudly on your desk, minimize food waste by bringing a packed lunch in a beeswax wrap (bonus point if you manage a meat-free Monday!) and switch off your tech when you’re not using it (this can be tricky, we know, but you’ll enjoy that lunchtime even more without constant emails flashing up).
  2. Speaking of plastic… reduce, reuse, recycle is the mantra of the environmental movement, and this should apply to our library collections too. Of course, no one wants to reduce the amount of resources on offer to our users, but Covid-19 has resulted in so many library services expanding their digital provisions, make sure that as life returns to normal you’re still reminding users of all that’s out there virtually. And as for reuse, well, why should charity shops have all the fun? Start a campaign calling for book donations, especially recent fiction releases that we’re all guilty of speed-reading only once. You could even combine your donations drive with a seed library initiative like the ones outlined above – no marked pages/a title less than two years old earns the gifter a free packet of seeds! For recycling, we understand that having books wrapped in plastic can keep them protected for longer, so make sure you’re reusing covers wherever possible. Helsinki’s libraries have even managed to stop their plastic cover use altogether, instead introducing a locally made sugar cane material. Don’t forget to let CILIPS know if you encounter a Scottish equivalent!
  3. And finally, as the incredible case study of UCC Library demonstrates, there are small yet significant changes that we can make within our workplaces that add up to a meaningful impact. Is your energy provider as sustainable as they could be or could your mobile libraries run on electric power (hello to #BabyMcBookface, the small but perfectly formed electric new arrival to Orkney Library’s mobile service)! Whatever your sector, libraries can also make the most of their role at the heart of their communities – as an easily accessed recycling point, perhaps, or a place to promote local produce and other sustainable businesses nearby?

As Greta Thunberg says, ‘you are never too small to make a difference’, and with a membership of almost 1,200 professionals across Scotland and beyond, every small step taken by a CILIPS member will help to get Scotland where it needs to be in upholding our environmental responsibilities. We’re here to support you throughout and can’t wait to celebrate your successes!

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