Congratulations to the San Diego County Library for becoming the first public library in California to be Certified Sustainable!

Published on June 6, 2024


Sustainable Libraries Initiative Logo

For Immediate Release
June 6, 2024


                                                                San Diego County Library is Certified Sustainable
                        The Sustainable Libraries Initiative recognizes San Diego County Library as a leader in sustainability.

San Diego County Public Library Alpine Library Branch


                                   SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY – June 6, 2024 – San Diego County Library located in San Diego, California has been designated a “Certified Sustainable Library” through the Sustainable Libraries Initiative’s award-winning Sustainable Library Certification Program (SLCP). This accomplishment makes San Diego County Library the first public library in California to complete the Sustainable Library Certification Program: an award-winning community of practice designed to provide public libraries, academic libraries, library systems, and school librarians with exclusive resources and guidelines to shift towards a cleaner, greener, and more equitable future.

Some, like the San Diego County Library, take their effort to the next level. The library has demonstrated a commitment to environmentally friendly practices by taking a thorough approach through both adaptive and mitigative measures. With 33 branches and over 300 library staff, San Diego County Library is by far the largest public library to undertake the Sustainable Library Certification Program and has done so with nothing less than excellence.

"We are incredibly proud to receive the Sustainable Library Certification, a clear reflection of our dedication to environmental stewardship. This achievement would not have been possible without the unwavering support of San Diego County and its Board of Supervisors, as well as the collaborative efforts of various County departments. We also recognize our dedicated staff, whose hard work and commitment have been instrumental in reaching this milestone. Together, we are creating a more sustainable future for our community," said Migell Acosta, Director of San Diego County Library.

Despite serving an area roughly the size of Connecticut, the library has cohesively connected their diverse community and ensured that their services are applicable to and accessible by all. Programs celebrating international holidays such as Día de los Niños and Lunar New Year bring representation for some of the many cultural backgrounds found in San Diego County. The library’s citizenship classes, and large collection of resources help pave the path for immigrants to find more stability in the United States. Voter registration events help ensure that every voice can be heard. Behind the curtain, the library values social equity by providing cultural competency training to employees and encourages staff from diverse backgrounds to sit in on meetings and help administration make important decisions that best represent the entire community. Environmental initiatives often get put on the back burner when human needs are not met, and San Diego County Library has put in the work to ease the disparity and keep progress rolling.

Partnering with the San Diego County Credit Union, the library hosted the “Lift Up Literacy Book Drive” in October 2023 encouraging county residents to donate books at their local bank. As a result of this partnership, over 11,000 books were distributed to local literacy programs or placed in one of the 53 library-sponsored Little Free Libraries constructed for communities in need. By the end of 2025, the library hopes to sponsor a total of 100 Little Free Libraries to extend their reach. The library also runs a successful fully accredited online “Library High School” to help adult students earn their diplomas. To date, the library has awarded more than 150 diplomas giving non-traditional students a stronger foundation on which to build their future.

Adaptation to climate change is only part of the picture, and San Diego County Library has ensured their mitigative strategies are just as strong. Several of their buildings run on net-zero energy or are powered in part by photovoltaic panels, and 6 of their branches are LEED certified -- a prestigious green building rating system. In existing buildings, HVAC systems have been electrified, lights in the buildings have been swapped for LEDS, additional trees have been planted on library property to reduce the need for energy intensive artificial cooling, and plastic water bottles have been substituted with water fountains or bottle filling stations. The library has also purchased 4 all-electric outreach vehicles and wrapped them with information on the benefits of EVs to help educate community.

In their planning, San Diego County Library considered the importance of climate resiliency and preparedness as projections for the future continue to heed warning. The county has designated all library staff as disaster workers, and its libraries as alternate sites for emergency services in the event that other county departments are overwhelmed by community demand. For instance, throughout the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in San Diego County, libraries served as emergency venues for testing and vaccinations. In the event of extreme weather events, county libraries are equipped with cool air, power generators, internet access, and resources for housing, food insecurity, and mental health to support the wellbeing of all San Diego County visitors and residents.

“San Diego County Library has become a model for how the SLCP can honor and celebrate the work that has been going on for years and stretch an institution to consider making strides in more places. Congratulations to them for their steadfast commitment to making their communities better and blazing a trail in California.” said Matthew Bollerman, Co-Founder and Vice-President of the Sustainable Libraries Initiative who served as the library’s mentor and got to witness their progress through the certification program from start to finish, though the work is never truly finished.

Taking full advantage of their resources, momentum, and supportive political landscape, San Diego County Library has big plans for the future. Sustainable initiatives will be expanded throughout their existing branches and all new construction will be done to LEED Gold standards. Residents can look forward to new electric vehicle charging stations, community gardens, an improved tree canopy, and more electric vehicles added to the library fleet.

View San Diego County's Final Presentation here.

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