5 Sep 2017

Boole Library Green Energy Campaign #LoveOurLibrary

Guest post by Ann Byrne, Liaison Librarian, Library Services and Environment, University College Cork Library




University College Cork as part of its Sustainability Strategy is committed to monitoring the impact of the University on the environment. The Office of Building and Estates plays a key role and responsibility in managing the University’s environmental impact. In September 2016 the library was approached by UCC Building & Estates Energy & Utilities manager Pat Mehigan. Pat put forward a case with regard to the energy consumption in the Library and asked if we would be willing to join with him and his colleagues to reduce the energy bill for the Boole Library. Colette McKenna, Director of Library Services was very supportive of the idea and asked that I liaise with Pat to see how we could achieve this. It was a bit of a leap in the dark for me (forgive the pun) as I had no previous experience in this area but always have had an awareness of environmental issues so was very willing to give it a go. Pat was very enthusiastic and easy to work with and we started out on a journey to save the planet!!!

The first step the library took was to sign up to accepting an annual budget for electricity, which if exceeded would incur a charge for us and if under spent would mean money back to use on energy saving projects.  The Boole Library spend on electricity for 2015/16 was €263,000 which accounted for 10% of the University budget on electricity - definitely worth taking a look at from both an environmental and a cost issue. We were allocated this sum for 2016/17 and we then set out to see how we could make reductions.

A small team was formed within the library with representation from every physical area and across grades. It is a large building with a lot of different environments with a wide range of purposes. Each member of the team worked closely with Pat to discuss the different issues which they had and looked to see how these could best be solved. Working with Pat over the year a number of issues were worked on and resolved:


  • Air conditioning and heating was improved to office areas which resulted in the turning off of individual heaters at staff desks and a happy staff!!
  • Changes were made to the lighting in the old part of the building in the summer of 2016. Light bulbs were changed to energy saving LED ones. Throughout this summer lights were turned off in the main reading rooms and students used overhead desk bulbs and daylight to study. This along with changes to timing of lighting saved a whopping €15,000. 
  • A major problem with cold air on the ground floor has been resolved by the removing the old air curtain and putting in its place an air barrier. The air barrier prevents cold air coming in to the library and keeps in the heated air. A by-product of this is that it also keeps out the leaves!! The air barrier cost €25,000 to install. A grant of 30% was received from SEAI and savings made on the lighting went towards the cost. The air barrier will save €8,000 a year in running costs. 

New projects to do with expensive air cooling systems in Special Collections and Archives are being investigated. This is an area of the library where there are requirements for very specific temperatures for the handling and storing of manuscripts, fragile material and archival collections. The new system being investigated will be more energy efficient and cheaper to run.

We will be looking out for more ways to conserve energy into the future and will be engaging with staff to keep the momentum going.

While all of this time was being spent on looking at how environmentally friendly our library was, we became acutely aware of the amount of waste which the library was generating. There were 167 bins spread across the Library using up to 10,000 plastic bags a year. These bags were heavily contaminated and there was virtually no recycling during semesters. We looked at lots of options and decided that we would have to do something dramatic to make a difference. So from the 4th September 2017 we are introducing the Love Our Library campaign. The scope of the campaign is to improve energy consumption, waste consumption and water consumption.

Our plan will involve:

  • Binless offices - staff will be required  to bring their waste and recycling to the nearest waste & recycling station
  • Binless library – students will be required to bring all their waste and recycling to the ground floor.
  • Proper recycling stations on the ground floor of the library will make it easier to do the right thing. These stations will have 4 bins – waste, plastic, paper and batteries.
  • All drinks to be in reusable cups and bottles. Paper cups for tea & coffee will no longer be allowed in the library. Staff and students will be expected to use re-usable containers. 


We are looking forward to a cleaner greener library with sustainability at its centre

. The Library is now a key partner and driver of sustainable change and activity within the UCC campus.

“The Sustainability Strategy can only be effectively implemented with the support and efforts of staff, students, contractors and other stakeholders, who will be kept informed of sustainability matters and initiatives and encouraged to engage in active involvement at all levels.” https://www.ucc.ie/en/greencampus/about/ 



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