Session Notes: Library Journal’s Directors Summit | Compendium

This is part of a series of Session Notes from grantees who have received Professional Development grants from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Each grantee will share their professional development experience and include tips and other resources from the workshop or class. Grantees had their choice of an article for the Compendium, a webinar or a podcast. This project was made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Margie Stern

Margie Stern


by Margie Stern,
Indian Valley Public Library

Held annually since 2009, Library Journal’s Directors Summit 2016, was an intimate gathering of library directors, vendors and corporate innovators focused on sustainability in its most expansive sense. Presentations, panels and small group discussions centered on the vital institution-the library-as a driver of community-wide sustainability in face of challenges from climate warming, political swings and changing demographics. 

This jam-pack two day summit, held at the beautiful Sacramento Public Library was kicked-off with the dynamic CEO & President of Klean Kanteen, Jim Osgood. Klean Kanteen introduced the first stainless steel BPA-free, reusable water bottle in 2004. The company goal is Making Responsible Business. Profitable. Jim introduced us to B Corps which is built on the simple fact that business impacts and serves more than just shareholders—it has an equal responsibility to the community and to the planet. Think of in terms of library speak- libraries impact and serve more than just its patrons- libraries have an equal responsibility to the community and to the planet. To learn more about B Corps visit their website at www.bcorporation.netTriple Bottom Line chart

This set the stage for Dr. Gary Shaffer who is the new director of the USC Master of Management in Library and Information Science (MMLIS) who shared ideas from his forthcoming book, Creating the Sustainable Public Library: The Triple Bottom Line Approach.

Simply put- Triple Bottom Line in libraries is to be truly sustainable; an organization must embody practices that are environmentally sound, economically feasible and socially equitable.

Dr. Shaffer offers 12 Sustainability Steps for Your Library:


  1. Financial structure and monitoring
    Form an independent library district or enact (via taxpayer vote or governing body decision) a library-dedicated portion of property tax.
    Consider using voter approved operating funds for capital projects.
    Employ a rainy-day fund and 501(c)(3) affiliated nonprofit trust or foundation.
    Continuously look for revenue savings (through productivity measures) or revenue generators.
    Monitor local, state, national economy; watch for economic signals.
  2. Education message
    Market the library as a branch of education (for children as well as life-long learners) as this is the highest tax-funded sector in the U.S.
    Align internal and external messaging appropriately.
  3. Continuously introduce new strategic initiatives
    ontinually expand offerings to better align with parent jurisdictions goals and maintain relevance.


  1. LEED libraries
    Begin or continue to add LEED or LEED equivalent library buildings to the cadre of library owned/operated buildings. Include solar, harvest of rainwater, etc. Incorporate LEED technology and practices into existing buildings. Teach practices to interested customers via in-person and passive programs.
  2. Reduce fuel usage and greenhouse gasses (GhG).
    Add alternative energy fuel (electric and natural gas) to fleet or insist delivery vendors move to this model.
    Monitor and report-out fuel reduction and GhG performance via actual reduction, as well as reductions brought about by more efficient operations.
  3. Recycle, re-use, and track
    Recycle all waste (paper, plastic, aluminum, compost) including discarded books kept from landfills via sales or recyclers.
    Report-out tons of waste diverted from landfills, including discarded materials sold or donated.

Social (external)

  1. Align with community goals
    Create library’s mission, vision, goals, and values which are aligned with those of the parent jurisdiction, community, and/or collective community leaders.
    Provide the relevant programming (some via partners, others from all staff) to achieve the goals, and report achievements via measurable outcomes.
    Also mitigate risk, revenue savings and continually work to properly manage the library’s reputation.
  2. Vendor compliance
    Create mandatory vendor surveys that provide assurance that all federal, state, and locally mandated labor and ethical sourcing standards are upheld.
  3. Employ excellent customer service
    Have a customer service philosophy, utilize customer surveys and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, conduct a market segmentation study, employ a chief customer experience advocate or officer, and measure progress against previously mentioned outcomes.
    Ingratiate customers to the library.

Social (internal)

  1. Support the workforce
    Start with good screening practices in the employee interview process.
    Provide robust training (including leadership development; cross-training; federal, state, and locally mandated training; as well as safety training), measure employee satisfaction, and uphold fair and equitable labor practices, including but not limited to hiring minorities (ethnic and others), veterans, and others on the lower-end of the economic scale.
  2. Maintain open communications
    Have an open door policy and a pathway for employee input and feedback.
  3. Recognize and interact with employees and teams often
    Leadership team should visit branches often, give out employee recognition awards, nurture employees and encourage them to take on new challenges.
    Promote from within when possible/appropriate.

Is your head spinning? Mine certainly was. Then in stepped the folks from NYLA (New York Library Association) who are sharing their Road Map to Sustainability initiative with anyone and everyone. The purpose of the Sustainability Initiative is to recognize the need to promote the important role libraries can play in larger community conversations about resiliency, climate change and a sustainable future for the communities that they serve. Co-chairs, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich and Matthew Bollerman provided detail and a whole lot of enthusiasm for the initiative. They even offer an NYLA Sustainability Road Map App that transport library leaders step by step to help create libraries and communities that thrive.

We also heard from leaders outside the library world discuss how government, nonprofits and for-profits collaborate and innovate for a sustainable future as well as leaders from public libraries and how they are incorporating sustainable principles at all levels in their institutions. Most notable was Dr. Scott Cloutier, Assistant Professor, School of Sustainability, ASU who directs the school’s Happiness Lab. The Happiness Lab combines knowledge, methods and practice from many fields of research (e.g., neurology, biology, contemplative practice, psychology, engineering, communication and urban planning) to develop strategies and interventions for moving toward a sustainable and happy future. For more information on what they are doing check out

Thank you to Commonwealth Libraries for allowing me the opportunity to attend this exceptional summit.