A year ago, with Biblionet rolling through its first round of selection and enthusiasm steadily growing about libraries in Romania, we brainstormed about new partnerships we could seek out. The idea was to tie libraries into as many different networks as possible during the program, so that when it finished, libraries were seen throughout the country, from many different angles, as the indispensible resources they should be.
One of the ideas that came out of that session was tapping into the growing European emphasis on environmental sustainability and efficiency. We thought about trying to partner with builders on cheaply renovating a library into a “green library” – creating a replicable model for the field. Luckily, one of our staff – training manager Camelia Crisan – is active in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) community in Romania. At one event, she began talking with the head of Romania’s Green Building Council. From that discussion, emerged a competition for Romania’s first green library, which was conducted last year. The Council agreed to mobilize its members – contractors, construction material vendors, project managers – to donate the labor and supplies to renovate a library. Around 50 communities submitted applications to a contest which IREX facilitated, and the selection panel chose Cacica in Suceava county.
It took some time to get all of the plans and permits in order, but construction began this week. We visited the site, tucked away in a picturesque valley, where Bogdan Draganescu was overseeing local builders in carefully dismantling the 100-year-old library. Care was being taken to preserve all of the pieces –either for reuse, recycling, or processing according to strict environmental standards. For example, the library’s old hardwood floor was going to be removed and placed in the village’s school next door. The contractors were preparing the roof to install solar panels, as well as locally-sourced wooden shingles consistent with the building’s design. Drilling for a geothermal heating system was to begin soon. Much more complicated was removing the asbestos and finding a company who would dispose of it suitably – but Mr. Draganescu had recently identified such a company.
The entire process will be documented in a video by Biblionet partner GMP, making the experience available as a model to the whole country. When completed, the building will be carbon neutral, and produce enough renewable energy to meet its demand. Mr. Draganescu thought that the building would be usable by the end of August, and construction completely finished by October.
It’s exciting for Biblionet to be a part of this initiative. We think it will play a part in transforming the image of libraries in the country into an institution that leads in innovation, and one that’s concerned with the next generation not only from an educational angle, but from a sustainability angle as well.