Photo: Steve Thurston
Updated, June 28, 8:30p.m.: Alison Saffold of the Urban Libraries Council told the Mercury late today that Arlington libraries competed against 12 other libraries in the nation for the "sustainability" award. The award is three years old and was created to go beyond best practices and become "inspirational" for libraries around the country, Saffold said.
A little whimsy goes a long way, especially when tied to an important topic. At least, that is what Arlington Public Libraries found. With the whimsical title “Bikes, Buildings and Broccoli,” the library took home the top prize for sustainability in the "Top Innovators" competition, run by the Urban Libraries Council.
The third annual competition chose one winner in each of 10 categories from about 200 applications, the awards brochure states.
“I think it’s huge. It’s always great to get recognition from your peer institutions,” said Diane Kresh, the director of Arlington’s libraries. She added that the applications are blind. The judges do not know which library or program they are considering. “To me that matters even more,” Kresh said.
The Urban Libraries Council is made up of urban and suburban libraries, with an eye toward innovation and best practices, their website says.
They are a “very progressive kind of organization. And sustainability is one of those issues they like to focus on,” said Peter Golkin, the spokesperson for the libraries.
Promoting, talking about, and doing the “right” things, is what the ULC looks for, Kresh said.
“The urban library council is very big on furthering the aims of the localities in which they exist,” she added. They look for programs that align with what the local government wants to do.
Kresh said the notion of educating the public on sustainability started in 2007 when then-chair of the Arlington County Board Paul Ferguson started the “Fresh AIRE” initiative of environmentally friendly programs. Fresh AIRE was as part of his year-long agenda for the county.
The win is an important affirmation that the libraries are meeting the needs of their communities, Kresh said, adding, “We did it in a fun...way.”
The library’s application highlighted the use of Capital Bikeshare on the premises of Central Library (“bikes”).
The energy-saving central library building itself (“buildings”) has solar panels on the roof. The libraries have switched to compact fluorescent lights inside, and Central has a kiosk for people to learn about energy savings in their own homes. The libraries have cut 43 percent of their electric use over 10 years, the awards materials state.
The use of a community garden (and “broccoli”) on the east side of the building has become a “cottage industry” of its own, Kresh said. Volunteers care for the garden which provides food for the Arlington Food Assistance Center, and master gardeners teach classes there.