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Environmental Education Center

Greensboro Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Melanie Buckingham, Environmental Education Librarian, Melanie.buckingham@greensboro-nc.gov

Problem Statement

In 2001, the Greensboro Public Library contracted with an environmental educator/consultant to assess the state of environmental education in our city. Our study found that multiple nonprofits and government departments have goals of providing sustainability information and environmental education, but the efforts are fractured and often only reach residents who already have this information and are practicing sustainable behaviors. The study found that a clearinghouse/environmental education hub was needed to 1) coordinate environmental literacy programs, 2) coordinate community outreach initiatives, 3) model environmental stewardship practices.

Innovation

Since 1991, GPL has used a “magnet school” type approach with our six branches. Each branch has a special theme or focus that not only meets the needs of the immediate neighborhood, but also is a magnet for people from throughout the county. Based on the findings from our planning grant, we decided that when the Kathleen Clay Edwards branch opened in 2004, it would be built around an environmental education magnet and would model environmental stewardship. To establish credibility with the environmental educators, the library would have a librarian on staff who had received environmental certification and the library itself would seek certification as one of the state’s Environmental Education centers.

Progress

In 2008, the Environmental Educators of NC selected the Kathleen Clay Edwards branch for its annual “Outstanding Environmental Organization” award. Of the 194 centers in the directory of NC Environmental Education Centers, it is the only library listed. We were selected because: 1) the building and landscaping model green practices such as cork floors and cisterns to catch rainwater; 2) robust menu of programs that attract over 5,000 people per year and an annual Earth Day celebration that attracts another 2,000 people; 3) the branch is the hub for the environmental education efforts of dozens of nonprofits and government departments; 4) outreach programs that extend environmental education to diverse populations (e.g., partnerships with Boys & Girls Club, public housing communities). In 2010-11, to reach more low-income audiences, we began partnering with the City’s Planning and Community Development department to provide environmental education programs such as weatherization and energy savings programs for homeowners. Also, we began offering a solar program for after-school groups, nature programs to target area scout organizations to meet badge requirements and a Green Business Luncheon for area businesses.