Going Green at the Library! IMCPL Initiatives Reduce Costs, Conserve Resources

August 13, 2010

With an eye toward reducing operating costs while encouraging conservation, the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library is finding success in various projects that focus on lowering energy usage, recycling and more electronic communication with patrons. 

At a cost of over $2 million in 2009, energy consumption represents one of the Library's major operating expenses in managing its 22 branches, Central Library downtown and the administrative Library Services Center. At Central Library, IMCPL's largest facility at 293,000 square feet, a number of activities have combined to drive down energy usage during the first six months of 2010 by an average of 12% and electricity costs by an average of 7%, compared to the same periods in 2008 and 2009. Improved monitoring and regulation of chilled water and steam for the building's air conditioning and heating systems, as well as the use of carbon dioxide sensors to regulate unconditioned outside air in the system, are among the latest efforts to improve energy efficiency at Central Library.

In 2009, IMCPL embarked on a multi-year pilot project at the Library Services Center (2450 N. Meridian St.), IMCPL's second-largest building, intended to lower energy consumption and guaranteed to reduce operating costs. The building's lighting and heating and cooling systems have been upgraded, a move projected to save over $145,000 a year in energy and operational expenses, or $964,000 over the six-year period of the project. The savings are guaranteed by Energy Solutions by JMS of Indianapolis, which was awarded a $796,000 contract funded by non-operating dollars from the Library's capital projects construction fund to engineer, install equipment modifications, monitor and report savings.

As required by Indiana statute, if guaranteed savings aren't achieved, Energy Solutions will reimburse the Library for the difference between the guaranteed amount and actual cost savings. However, since April 2010 when the term of the project began, energy savings alone have been over $29,000, significantly more than the $21,000 required by the contract during the first two-month period.

The Library Services Center project serves as a prototype for similar projects at library branches. Lighting retrofits have been installed at the Eagle and Shelby branches, which have realized over $2,400 in savings in the first six months of those projects, with similar projects pending at the Pike, Warren and Wayne branches. Significant energy savings would similarly result from these projects.

"It is incumbent upon the Library to think smart and think green when it comes to our energy needs," said Laura Bramble, IMCPL CEO. "We are doing so not only because of budget pressures, which all levels of government face, but because it's important for us to be good stewards of public resources, monetary and otherwise," she added.

The Library's goal is to not only save energy, but paper and other resources as well. Beginning in 2011, IMCPL will eliminate the mailing of paper notices to alert patrons when their materials are ready for pick-up or due to be returned, a move that will save IMCPL nearly $80,000 a year. Patrons will now be notified via email and are encouraged to sign up for email notification.

A "Green Team" of library staffers has been working to implement other resource-saving projects. One allows patrons to purchase reusable, ecologically-friendly bags at the library, which reduces the use of plastic bags to carry books and materials to and from the library. At a cost of $2 per bag, IMCPL has already sold more than 2,300 bags during the first year of the service.

Paper recycling occurs at 11 IMCPL locations, an initiative that nets the library $5 per ton of paper collected. All libraries forward their overstock collections to the Secondhand Prose Booksale, where the public can buy materials at discount prices. In 2009, the Booksale generated over $260,000 for library programs and services through the IMCPL Foundation. In addition, all libraries serve as depositories for battery recycling. The public is encouraged to drop off used batteries which are picked up regularly by the City of Indianapolis.

Other initiatives include the use of three hybrid-powered mini-vans for the delivery of books and materials to preschoolers in local home day care centers and after school programs, the installation of hand dryers at most public restroom locations, recycling printer cartridges, and extending the lifespan of many cleaning supplies.

As IMCPL addresses its service and funding challenges for the future, "going green" will be regarded as an essential component of the Library's success.