The Greening of Saratoga Springs Public Library

  As part of Saratoga Springs Public Library's increased focus on sustainability, a group of staff members recently cleaned fence rails for several hours at Pitney Meadows. 

As part of Saratoga Springs Public Library's increased focus on sustainability, a group of staff members recently cleaned fence rails for several hours at Pitney Meadows. 

By Dan Forbush

Add Saratoga Springs Public Library (SSPL) to the list of local organizations that are becoming more sustainable in the way they do business. 

SSPL recently announced that it aims to be among the first libraries in the state to achieve Sustainable Library Certification, a new program established by the New York Library Association (NYLA) to encourage libraries to become more "proactive in their application of sustainable thinking in the areas of their facilities, operations, policy, technology, programming, and partnerships.”

The program offers a benchmarking system that's designed to help libraries improve their “triple bottom line” as environmental stewards, economically feasible institutions, and as community leaders that place great stock in social equity. 

As part of SSPL's long-range planning process, Director Ike Pulver recently sent every library staff member out to interview constituents about their aspirations for the community and challenges they perceive in attaining them. 

"People repeatedly mentioned the uncommon mix of natural and cultural amenities that enhance our quality of life here in Saratoga Springs," he said. "Growth, preservation, and increasing economic disparity were near-universal threads. People in this area are very concerned about the rapid rate of growth, the widening gap in accessibility of services, and the rapid rate of change that in some ways is transforming the nature of our community." 

""We recognize that both growth and preservation, while concepts that are potentially at odds, are important aspects of sustainable communities, and we're excited about the role environmentally-conscious practices can play in an overall sustainability effort." 

Incorporating NYLA certification as a distinct objective in its recently adopted long-range plan, SSPL hascommitted to a process that includes all of the following: 

  • collecting data on its use of energy and other resources;
  • conducting an employee survey on sustainability;
  • rewriting policies in line with best practices; 
  • engaging the community in outreach efforts.  

While SSPL has just written an explicit sustainability initiative into its long-range plan for the first time, the library has been stepping up its sustainability efforts for the last several years. Recent steps include:

  • a more energy-efficient upgrade to the library's HVAC system; 
  • a doubling in the number of parking spaces for bicycles;
  • conversion to environmentally friendly cleaning supplies;
  • adoption of low- or no-VOC paints and maintenance products; 
  • a decision against using promotional plastic bags at the circulation desk. 

"The new initiative will audit our practices to see if there is even more we can do to reduce our environmental impact," Pulver says. Also to be explored will be the establishment of potential new community linkages -- as with Pitney Meadows Community Farm. 

At SSPL's recent "Staff Day," we at Pitney Meadows made a start by presenting a brief update on the farm. In the afternoon, a half-dozen SSPL staff members devoted several hours to volunteer labor at a the farm. Their specific assignment: cleaning fence rails that had been tarnished in the course of recent construction at the farm. 

As examples of joint programs that SSPL and Pitney Meadows might some day offer, Pulver pointed to programs conducted with the Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center, Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Cornell Cooperative Extension, as well as discussion groups and children's activities at the Saratoga Farmer’s Market and the Spa City Farmer’s Market. 

"In recent years, we’ve converted several of our flower beds to vegetable gardens, with produce going to the Saratoga EOC soup kitchen, and our annual Food for Fines program helps to stock the emergency food pantry at the Franklin Community Center," he noted. 


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A member of the Pitney Meadows Community Farm Board of Directors, Dan Forbush chairs the Community Outreach Committee and heads the team that produces Around the Silo.