Published on February 17, 2023
A year after opening enrollment for the Sustainable Library Certification Program to libraries nationwide, we are celebrating our first outside of New York State certification! Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine has earned this historic designation and the SLI could not be prouder to share the amazing work they are doing.
Sustainability was already a substantial consideration when creating their strategic plan in 2020. This plan included the adoption of Curtis Library cornerstones:
“Curtis Memorial Library strives to enrich the quality of life in Brunswick by: building community, advocating for reading, championing social justice and digital equity and promoting sustainability.”
This statement centered two of the three tenets of triple bottom line sustainability as the foundation of all the work they strived to do in their community. The plan outlines specific strategies to address each of these cornerstones. The work they have presented to complete the Sustainable Library Certification Program exemplifies the significant progress they have made in all three areas of triple bottom line sustainability.
Close attention has been paid to creating green spaces both inside and outside of the library. In fact, Curtis Director, Elisabeth Doucett has written a book that discusses biophillic design in libraries. The beautiful mezzanine that connects the original historic building and the 1999 extension shows how this can create a dynamic and welcoming space for their community.
The exterior of the library has native planting areas that are not raked or mowed. They are working with a local landscape architect who specializes in native plants and porous hardscapes to reduce the amount of rainwater runoff. They have also added signage throughout the grounds to inform and educate the community about the decisions they make.
They hold a wide array of programming with sustainability themes. These programs include information about local farms, composting, cooking with local produce, gardening in Maine, locally focused climate resilience education, sustainability focused book clubs, and frequently incorporate reused materials in craft programs. The library has also created a number of pollinator gardens around the building and sponsors a Monarch butterfly program which includes releasing newly hatched Monarchs into the library’s butterfly garden.
Their growing Library of Things has gardening, cooking, and other tools to share instead of buying. On the Library of Things webpage, there are videos explaining how this collection helps to fight climate change and how it fits in with the UN Sustainability goals. Effective communication with their community, along with building partnerships with other organizations, helps to reinforce the message that sustainability and community resilience are important and embedded meaningfully into the work Curtis Memorial Library does.
Building partnerships with other community organizations has also allowed Curtis to reach out into their community with compassion. The library partners with organizations such as Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program to provide cooking classes, tours of the food pantry, and free food for kids and teens during summer months when they might otherwise go hungry. They cooperate with organizations who gather produce that is damaged or otherwise unsellable and build programming to help make community members aware of this resource and teach them how to use it. Other informative programming has focused on community resilience with a panel discussion exploring the options for renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency with local and regional providers.
Also demonstrating the library’s commitment to sustainability was their decision to wait on getting a community bookmobile until they were able to ensure that it would be an electric vehicle. The library developed a partnership with Darling’s Ford of Brunswick who then donated the lease to a new electric van that will be used as the library’s bookmobile. The library also received a grant from the Manton Foundation to help them do this work. Brunswick has expanded its population significantly over the past fifteen years as the Brunswick Naval Air Station closed and the base transitioned to a civilian work and living location. The library identified a need to provide services in that area and determined that a bookmobile would be the best way to do that but they wanted to follow sustainable practices in that work. The Curtis bookmobile will be the first EV bookmobile in Maine.
Many actions taken at Curtis Memorial (and many other libraries in the SLCP) are not large capital improvements or in-depth programming. One of the interesting and very replicable ideas that Curtis shared as part of their Action Items is their use of color coding to let staff know which lights should be kept on at all times, which should be turned on after dark, and which should be left off unless the space is being used. The use of small sticker dots has solved a problem that many libraries have when communicating the balance of energy savings and safety for staff.