December 8, 2009

Libraries Greening Communities?

Filed under: blog — Tags: , , , , — tsladmin @ 7:51 am

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?


  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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