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Climate Smart @ Your Local Library

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

By Brenda Shufelt

Ecotopian Library @ Hudson Area Library, Pollinator plant @ Claverack Free Library, & Free Veggies @ Philmont Public Library

Program offered at Claverack Library

Your local libraries play a key role in sustainability efforts in our community. They are at the forefront of climate smart initiatives, not only with information and education, but also in modeling green living, responding to climate-related difficulties, and offering a variety of pragmatic eco-friendly help.

For this article, I interviewed the library directors of the Philmont Public Library, the Claverack Free Library and the Hudson Area Library. It was clear, by how excited the directors were to talk about how they address climate change, that this is an important aspect of their mission in serving the public.

All three libraries participate in the Library of Local, a partnership between Partners for Climate Action Hudson Valley and the Mid-Hudson Library System. It offers library patrons a collection of books, tools, seeds, and other resources so local communities can take action on their own terms. Each library has a selection of books available for borrowing on ecology, gardening, and climate change. They all also have seed libraries. Patrons can take the seeds they need and donate extra seeds. Seed jars are labeled and there are envelopes to take some home in.

In addition, both the Hudson Area Library and Philmont Free Library have tool libraries. Tools can be expensive, they can take up a lot of space and they may not be used frequently enough to justify purchasing. A tool library reduces these barriers by allowing patrons to borrow the tools necessary to care for their property. Patrons can check out tools just like they can check out a book! The shed housing Philmont’s Tool Library was actually created as a boy scout project and was moved to its current location by Habitat for Humanity volunteers where its mural was painted by Free Columbia. So, it really is a community initiative!

Tobi Farley, Library Director at the Philmont Library, regaled me with the library’s green programs and collections. Their ecological program, Philmont Pollinator Pathway, is funded by Partners for Climate Action Hudson Valley. The goal is to increase the pollinator population by planting native plantings. The library hosted a series of planting days at the library and other public areas such as the retaining wall at Summit Lake and the Nancy Brousseau Pocket Park. The program brochure states: “We are beginning a pathway in the Village of Philmont by adding native plant gardens on five public sites. We are encouraging residents to add some of the same plants to their own gardens by offering native wildflower seeds, seedlings, and a raffle to win a garden planted with you on your property by a garden expert.”

Tobi Farley, Philmont Library Director, receives bags of seeds to give away.

Through the Philmont Pollinator Pathway, the library also had a series of nature talks and summer programs for kids and their families. In addition, the Art School of Columbia County held a two-part workshop on Plein Air Botanical Sketching and Kara Keeler, a local photographer, taught a two-part workshop on nature photography for kids in September.

The Claverack Free Library not only has the Library of Local and a Seed Library (click here for the post on the Seed Library in our blog), a partnership with Climate Smart Claverack, and ecological educational programming, they also respond in real time to community challenges presented by climate change. These past few months as temperatures soared, Canada’s wildfires caused poor air quality, or power outages occurred, the library posted on social media their availability as a cooling station, a place with Merv 13 air filters in the HVAC system, and a location with power on. Library Director Thea Schoep stated that one of her goals is to get funding to have the library open any time there is a need based on these climate related difficulties.

Libraries are becoming leaders in our community in using green technology. At the Claverack Free Library the lights, and all power in the building, are solar powered! In their still gleamingly new location, they recently were able to get their power from a local solar farm company. After two months, they have used 8,000 kilowatts of power, had a carbon offset of the equivalent of 5,000 pounds, and saved $78! In addition, Claverack has installed pavers with open spaces where grass or small flowers will grow providing permeability and cooling that asphalt does not. Also, the Claverack and Philmont libraries have EV charging stations in their parking lots. In addition, both have native plantings outside.

The Hudson Area Library houses an Ecotopian Library, a collection of books, video, and even soil samples. This collection was originally conceived by Mary Mattingly as part of her larger Ecotopian Library project, which has shown in museums and universities around the world. At the invitation of Toolshed and Basilica Hudson, both located in Hudson, as part of Basilica Hudson’s Hudson as Muse residency program, Mary worked with Susannah Sayler, Edward Morris and the library staff to create this space for the Hudson Area Library. Additional design and ideas provided by Jill Allyn Petterson. The Stockbridge Munsee Community and The Thomas Cole National Historical Site contributed to the Ecotopian Library in Hudson. The Ecotopian Collection examines the place where we live and helps envision how it could be even better.

Finally, the Columbia County Libraries Association has launched a countywide read through November 4, encouraging community members to read a common book and come together for discussions and programs centered around the book’s themes. The book is The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba – the true story of a boy who helped a drought-stricken Malawi village by constructing a windmill to generate electricity and pump water, after seeing an example in a book at his local library. There will be related programming including a workshop for kids to make their own model windmill, book group discussions, a webinar on wind energy, and a free movie screening of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind at the Crandell Theatre!

For more information on the Libraries of Local, the seed and tool libraries, Columbia County Community Reads and the many other climate smart initiatives and programs visit the Hudson Area Library, Claverack Free Library, and Philmont Public Library websites.

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