December 8, 2009

Libraries Greening Communities?

Last week­end we had an energy audit done on our house, a fas­ci­nat­ing exer­cise to watch. Besides the fact that I was inter­ested to see what our issues are, I was cap­ti­vated by the equip­ment used. Being a geek, it was extra fun for me. :)

infrared camera
infrared cam­era

As the gen­tle­man who per­formed the audit (Jim) worked, we had a lovely talk about a vari­ety of things, includ­ing libraries. We talked about ebooks (he has a Kin­dle) and libraries (he thinks we’ll be cut out of the pic­ture) and library ser­vices in gen­eral. Jim men­tioned how he tries to work with orga­ni­za­tions to improve energy effi­ciency, includ­ing libraries. Appar­ently he’s worked with Wis­con­sin libraries to give each one a wattmeter to cir­cu­late to res­i­dents who want to mon­i­tor their elec­tric­ity (see this exam­ple).

Jim is eager to work with Illi­nois libraries to see what we could do to help patrons who want to do more to make their homes more energy effi­cient. Chicagoland libraries already cir­cu­late museum passes, some libraries still cir­cu­late art, and there are toy libraries, so why not this ser­vice? Sev­eral libraries are offer­ing new gad­gets for cir­cu­la­tion (GPS devices, Flip video cam­eras, ebook read­ers), so lend­ing tech­nol­ogy isn’t new, either. There’s a lot of talk right now about green libraries, but can libraries green go that next step and help green their communities?

I love the idea, espe­cially when com­bined with com­ple­men­tary pro­grams, read­ing lists, and com­mu­nity con­nec­tions. Are any libraries out­side of Wis­con­sin offer­ing this type of ser­vice? If you’re in Wis­con­sin, have patrons been using your wattmeter?

Be Socia­ble, Share!


  1. The pub­lic libraries in IL that are ser­viced by Ameren (basi­cally every­where except the Chicago-land area) already have access to some of this tech­nol­ogy thanks to a part­ner­ship between Ameren and Illi­nois Library Sys­tems. The response from patrons has been fan­tas­tic and, in many libraries, they rarely stay on the shelf.

    Comment by Amanda — December 8, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  2. Maine Libraries have been loan­ing out energy mon­i­tors for a year or so through a part­ner­ship between libraries and the pub­lic util­i­ties com­mis­sion. They con­tinue to be EXTREMELY pop­u­lar with wait­ing lists, even though more units were added last sum­mer. For the Maine Library Asso­ci­a­tion, work­ing with Effi­ciency Maine to dis­trib­ute a pop­u­lar prod­uct like the meters was a great way to increase pub­lic­ity and pub­lic inter­est for libraries by pro­vid­ing an inter­est­ing and very cur­rent ser­vice. It was also a good way to share the work of cre­at­ing pub­lic­ity mate­r­ial and get­ting the word out. Search for [Maine libraries kill-a-watt] for more arti­cles and info if you’re interested

    Comment by Alisia — December 8, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  3. Hi Jenny,

    Whitby Pub­lic Library, in part­ner­ship with Whitby Hydro, has been loan­ing watt read­ers for just over 3 years now. They circ about 150 times a year and your post reminded me that it is prob­a­bly time to pro­mote them again. We also have 2 GPS units for loan. They were given to the library as an ini­tia­tive by the local health unit to pro­mote geo­caching as a fun, phys­i­cal activ­ity for the whole family.

    Comment by Rhonda — December 8, 2009 @ 9:55 am

  4. We’re cur­rently build­ing a new library to LEED Gold stan­dards, includ­ing the use of a grass roof on all three lev­els and the use of recy­cled auto­mo­bile tires as the base mate­r­ial for our floor­ing. Obvi­ously build­ing green is one thing, but oper­at­ing green is another and lead­ing your com­mu­nity to “green-ness” is yet another. Our park dis­trict in Bol­ing­brook recently fin­ished a LEED plat­inum nature cen­ter. Per­haps the two of us in con­cert can help “green” our com­mu­nity in the com­ing years.

    Thanks for the posting!

    Comment by Dave Hargett — December 8, 2009 @ 10:30 am

  5. We have had three requests for our older watt meter in just the last week, though there are times that it goes months at a time with­out any use. I think they must be get­ting some press some­where. I con­tacted Focus on Energy of Wis­con­sin to see if we could get a newer/additional meter, but they are not cur­rently run­ning a promotion.

    Comment by Joe Bongers — December 8, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

  6. Sturm Memo­r­ial Library in Man­awa, WI (pop­u­la­tion 1300) has cir­cu­lated a Watt Meter pro­vided by a Focus on Energy grant 19 times in the last four years. So, it’s out doing its work about a 1/3 of the year. We con­sider this a respectable amount of use.

    Comment by Ellen Connor — December 8, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

  7. My local library (Hen­nepin County, which includes Min­neapo­lis) has new signs up in the last week or so men­tion­ing that you can now bor­row to check elec­tri­cal draw on home appli­ances. (I’m blank­ing on what they’re called, however.)

    I think it’s a great ser­vice, espe­cially for a tool like this that is small, portable, but not fre­quently needed.

    Comment by Jen — December 8, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

  8. Our library does cir­cu­late the wattmeter that was donated by Xcel Energy. Many patrons have found it help­ful in find­ing out if an appli­ance is using too much energy or the rea­son why their bill goes up. Also, the Alliant Energy donated a set of DVDs fea­tur­ing Pow­er­House show and ways of con­serv­ing energy.

    Comment by Patti B. — December 8, 2009 @ 12:40 pm

  9. We are a small Wis­con­sin Library in a com­mu­nity of 3000 that has been lend­ing out Watt Meters to the pub­lic. Higher elec­tricy prices seem to spur check­out of the meters. We are also a part of a pilot project on get­ting a com­mu­nity to con­serve energy. WPS, CUB and the Focus on Energy are part­ner­ing with the City of Bril­lion to get peo­ple to com­mit to con­serv­ing. The Icanconserve/brillion web­site was cre­ated for the project. In addi­tion to check­ing out the Watt Meters, the Library is part­ner­ing with these orga­ni­za­tions. They will be bring­ing dis­plays, free pam­phlets and pro­grams on energy sav­ings. the pro­gram has just started and in the past month we cir­cu­lated our Watt meters 5 times. Our Watt meters check out for one week and include infor­ma­tion on how to use as well as infor­ma­tion on var­i­ous appliances.

    Comment by Chris Moede — December 8, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

  10. In regards to your request regard­ing Watts usage meters cir­cu­lat­ing in libraries.
    In our V-Cat Shared Sys­tem (Wis­con­sin Val­ley Library Ser­vice) 6 libraries have this avail­able for check-out. The bib record title is: Watts up? [kit]

    Comment by Mary E. Dunn — December 8, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  11. Madi­son Pub­lic Library and all libraries in the South Cen­tral Library Sys­tem in Wis­con­sin cir­cu­late Watt’s Up Meters. They were donated to the libraries through a grant from local util­ity com­pany Madi­son Gas & Elec­tric. More info here: and here: Patrons do use the meters, espe­cially when there’s a news story or MG&E puts infor­ma­tion into the newslet­ter that is mailed out with billing state­ments. Cur­rently about 25% of the system’s 103 meters are in use.

    Comment by Tana Elias — December 8, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

  12. The Mid­dle­ton Pub­lic Library has 6 “Watts Up!” energy meters that can be checked out by library patrons. Since there is a high demand for their use, our equip­ment is usu­ally in use. How­ever, the South Cen­tral Library Sys­tem has 106 copies avail­able through the online catalog.

    In addi­tion to our Green Col­lec­tion, Mid­dle­ton added 14 Energy Effi­cient com­put­ers that use 1/5 the elec­tic­ity of our PC tow­ers this past year as part of our GO GREEN! campaign.

    Comment by Pamela K. Westby — December 8, 2009 @ 1:32 pm

  13. We have 2 watt meters at the Lester Pub­lic Library, Two Rivers, Wis­con­sin — they are both checked out, right now.

    The City of Two Rivers has applied for an Energy Effi­ciency and Con­ser­va­tion Block Grant to improve energy use in city build­ings. The library is included in the grant and we are focus­ing on elec­tric usage, in par­tic­u­lar our light­ing. The library has 59 light fix­tures uti­liz­ing 400 watts each; these lights are on dur­ing oper­at­ing hours. Cur­rently the light har­vester (a sen­sor that would shut down lights peri­od­i­cally) is not in use. By installing fix­tures and bulbs that reduce wattage from 400 to 95 and gen­er­ate more light could poten­tially save the library $6,000.00 in energy con­sump­tion annu­ally. Other build­ings in the grant include the Fire Depart­ment, City Hall and the Com­mu­nity House. The library light­ing project is esti­mated in the $25,000 to $30,000 price range; if awarded the grant, all costs are cov­ered. If the grant should pass us by, there are no-interest loans avail­able through WPPI.

    Comment by Jeff Dawson — December 8, 2009 @ 1:32 pm

  14. Steen­bock Library at the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin — Madi­son has just begun a pilot pro­gram to cir­cu­late portable energy meters, which were donated by Madi­son Gas and Elec­tric (MGE) —

    MGE began its part­ner­ship with pub­lic libraries in south­ern Wis­con­sin over 10 years ago —

    So far, I’m not aware of any other aca­d­e­mic libraries in the U.S. that check out meters.

    Comment by Amanda Werhane — December 8, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

  15. We are cir­cu­lat­ing a cou­ple of energy self-audit kits to our patrons. They are very pop­u­lar. They cir­cu­late for a week and we have a holds list of 40 peo­ple wait­ing for them:

    Comment by Mike — December 8, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

  16. Water­ford Pl has a watts meter and I know the last per­son to check it out was my son for his sci­ence fair project on light bulbs. 18 circs in 5 years

    Comment by Gail — December 8, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

  17. We have 2 “Kill A Watt : elec­tric­ity usage mon­i­tors” that we circulate

    Comment by Maggie — December 8, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

  18. Con­tra Costa County Library (CA) cir­cu­lates the Kill-a-Watt power meter kit:|library%2fmarc%2fcarls|CARL0000758849

    The Pleas­ant Hill Com­mu­nity Library part­nered with the city to pro­mote recy­cling and now hosts The Green Zone. A county super­vi­sor wants the libraries in his dis­tricts to repli­cate this idea.

    The Lafayette Library and Learn­ing Cen­ter which opened last month has an exte­rior of reclaimed teak sid­ing and pho­to­voltaic pan­els above the sur­face park­ing lot will gen­er­ate approx­i­mately 8% of the building’s elec­tri­cal needs.

    Comment by Susan Kantor-Horning — December 8, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

  19. What a coin­ci­dence, I just saw these offered at my local library yes­ter­day. They told me it’s been quite pop­u­lar. The ref­er­ence librar­ian encour­aged me to check one out, which I will do some­time soon. Would be great if they offered a full energy audit kit like Mike mentioned.

    Comment by pollyalida — December 9, 2009 @ 1:17 am

  20. In the past our library and oth­ers in our sys­tem had watt meters avail­able for check­out, but as I under­stand, the cost of main­tain­ing them became an issue and so they even­tu­ally went away. We’d like to have at least one avail­able; thanks for post­ing on this topic!

    Comment by Robin Orlandi — December 9, 2009 @ 10:52 am

  21. […] Libraries Green­ing Communities? […]

    Pingback by Friday Link Round Up « ellie <3 libraries — December 11, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

  22. I’m part of a seven county library sys­tem in South­ern Wis­con­sin and we have 103 Watts Up energy meters in the sys­tem that cir­cu­late. Accord­ing to our USE sta­tis­tics they have gone out a total of 3,812 times since they were received about half way through 2008. They check out for 28 days.

    Comment by Jane — December 11, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

  23. The Rose­mary Gar­foot Pub­lic Library in Cross Plains, WI is the state’s first LEED cer­ti­fied pub­lic library. The build­ing opened in 2006.

    Part of our library’s mis­sion is to “encour­age[] activ­i­ties that pro­mote stew­ard­ship of our envi­ron­ment through pro­mo­tion of the facil­ity as a liv­ing lab­o­ra­tory, pro­vi­sion of envi­ron­men­tal and eco­log­i­cal col­lec­tions, and devel­op­ment of envi­ron­men­tally inspired pro­grams and work­shops.” Energy meters for the pub­lic is just one of the envi­ron­metnal ser­vices we pro­vide. The meters are pop­u­lar and always in-demand.

    Comment by Pamela Bosben — December 15, 2009 @ 1:09 pm

  24. The Mil­wau­kee County Fed­er­ated Library Sys­tem in Wis­con­sin cir­cu­lates 10 kits.

    Comment by Joan Johnson — December 17, 2009 @ 8:43 am

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