Urban sustainability library

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Library 1.jpg

Working Design

Our Purpose

  • To help make it easier for people and organizations to make more sustainable choices.

Our Role

We serve a number of functions:

  • We are the first responders to requests that come in, whether they come from e-mail, phone calls, Facebook or Twitter, or in person. We send them off to the appropriate person, and sometimes provide the answers ourselves.
  • We provide an informational role. We are responsible for updating the website, all of the social media, and production of photos and videos. We do research on various sustainability-related topics in response to requests from the in-residence businesses or the public. We update the outside kiosk. We also manage our lending library. For a list of our books, see our reading material page.
  • We are responsible for archival work. For example, our One Earth Patterns pages are summaries of the design work that took place from 2008-2009 in preparation for the construction of our building. The As Built pages that are currently being written detail the final construction design of the building.
  • We participate in business incubation meetings, provide summaries of material discussed and contribute our research services.
  • Every week we conduct tours of the building and do interviews on request.
Processing of requests in library

Our Beliefs

We believe that ...

  • everyone has a right to the information needed to make these more sustainable choices
  • that making more sustainable choices is fundamentally a learning process
  • choosing more sustainable ways of living is more likely to be successful when the person is connected to an encouraging community
  • each person's journey into a deeper understanding of sustainability is unique and they know best what's sustainable for them.
  • we are one of many resources people have available to them to help them make more sustainable choices.

USL Principles

Urban Sustainability Library Principles

The USL has four “energy centers,” activities rooted in our core beliefs that help facilitate sustainability knowledge creation in the Green Garage and Midtown communities. These interrelated activities are Encouraging, Creating, Learning, and Sharing.

Encouraging: We believe that choosing more sustainable ways of living is more likely to be successful when the person is connected to an encouraging community. We encourage community members by having conversations, listening, relating our own experience or the experience of others we know, modeling sustainable practices, and clearly communicating our values. We encourage by learning, creating, and sharing.

Creating: As new librarians and active participants in the contemporary information ecosystem, we believe that we must create valuable information, not just collect & disseminate it, and encourage members of our communities to do the same. We create information in the form of blog posts/articles, Wiki pages, photographs, maps, and videos, and we also seek out new kinds of information to create. When we enter into a relationship with a community member or organization, we encourage them to create information about their experience. (See Sharing.)

Learning: We believe that making more sustainable choices is fundamentally a learning process, and that our responsibility to people who want to live or work more sustainably is to help them learn. As librarians and members of the Green Garage community, we are also active learners, continually gaining new understandings about our communities, sustainability, and new librarianship. We encourage learning by referring people to diverse sources of information relevant to their request and position on the change curve, including experts, companions, websites, books, etc., and by encouraging them to create information.

Sharing: We believe that the information we and our community members create must enter into the knowledge commons to reach others and encourage others to live and work more sustainably. We share via our wiki and our social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr), and we work to encourage people we help to share their own stories once they have taken steps (successful or not) on their sustainability journey.

USL Request Process

I. Welcome/Greeting/Introduction

  • Could be in the library, at Friday lunch, over email or SNS, on the bus, at a party...

II. How can we help?

  • Conversation (as opposed to interview)
  • What’s the story?

III. Assessing position on change curve

  • Awareness > Understanding > Trial > Adoption

IV. Tailoring resources/services to get a great answer. Refer to:

  • Our wiki
  • Other info online
  • Expert
  • Contractors
  • Companion
  • Books
  • Other organizations
  • Social networks

V. Solicit feedback

  • Was the info helpful? Why/why not?
  • Did community member obtain info from other sources? What was it?
    • We then assess whether or not we should also make that other info



  • Mine the valuable information from exchange in order to put it in the commons, to “grow”

or “refuel” the community

VII. Publish

  • Make that valuable information publicly accessible
    • via Wiki, Wikipedia, SNS, blog, more?
  • Encourage community member to do same/tell story
    • SNS, blog, video, radio, etc.

VIII. Follow-up

  • As necessary for requests about long-term projects

Change Curve

The process of learning about sustainability and applying sustainable principles to one’s daily life can be represented as a change curve, through which people move over time from awareness of a particular principle in sustainability to its adoption, passing through the understanding and trial phases in between. (Though the process will not necessarily be linear, and people may slip back down the curve based on life circumstances.)

Green Garage librarians assess a requestor’s position on the change curve and offer a different (and growing) set of information services based on their position. They are:







Book clubs


How-to videos




Businesses in residence




Maintaining an Information Commons

  1. Community member pulls information out of commons
  2. Community member is empowered, energized, creates information to put back in
  3. This process builds community
  4. Commons is enhanced

Scope of the Sustainable Library Services

  • Is to connect people and organizations to the information and people with expertise who can help them successfully make these more sustainable choices. It is not within the scope of the library to design the sustainable solution for the person or business.
  • Specific services are:
    • sustainability consultations
    • community education sessions
    • sustainability blog / e-newsletter
  • Areas of learning where we can help make it easier:
    • water
    • energy
    • waste
    • garden habitat
    • food
    • transportation
    • materials
  • Who are our clients?
    • Anyone interested in taking the next step in making their lives or businesses more sustainable. These include:
      • Tenants of the Green Garage
      • Our immediate local community - Detroit area
      • Anyone in the world
  • Scope of service platforms for the library
    • Virtual platforms
      • website, blog, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter
      • email, chat
    • Physical platform in GG
      • desk with computer
      • shelves: books, periodicals(?), computers, archived posters.
      • kiosk

Social Media


In-house book collection
Locally-focused, researched and developed by members of the Green Garage community
Building design pages
Describing the as-built environment of the Green Garage

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