Library earns gold for being green

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By Laura Hagan

With a walking trail and a waterfall, visitors get the impression they’re approaching a lodge in the woods.

Nestled off Ky. 53 in La Grange, the county’s main library offers just what a lodge does – a retreat from the day-to-day and a chance to enjoy some peace. And it’s the most environmentally-friendly library in the state.

When construction began on the library more than two years ago, the director and staff hoped the building would earn certified “green” status for its design. On Aug. 19, the library celebrated being named the only leadership in energy and environmental design certified library in Kentucky.

The state’s chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council honored director Susan Eubank and her staff with LEED gold certification, a distinction that Eubank said the staff hoped for.

When construction began on the library she said the library hoped to just earn basic LEED certification. After seeing other possibilities to conserve energy during the construction process, she said they hoped to earn silver certification. They submitted their information and found they just needed one more point to be certified gold. Now, the library is one of only 35 gold libraries in the country and the only one in Kentucky.

Some of the “greener” aspects of the library include radiant floor heating under the childrens’ activity area and a 12,000-gallon rainwater catchmen’s tank. There are large windows throughout the library as well that offer natural light during the day.

Cliff Ashburner, president of the state’s U.S. Green Building Chapter said he thinks the work that’s been done on the library started with the staff.

It started, he said, with the staff’s desire to create a better place to work.

Connie Oldham, a member of the Friends of the Oldham County Public Library runs a book sell room at the library and remembers watching people sit in front of the library’s fireplace to read. Moments later, she said she’d look back and they’d be sleeping.

“(This library) is just a peaceful place,” she said. “It gives you a peaceful feeling when you’re here.”

It’s become a place the public wants to be, as well. Deputy-Judge Executive Paula Gish said statistics since the library’s main branch opened in January 2009 show an 80 to 90-percent increase in visitors.

Gretchen Benningfield of La Grange brings her son to the library and calls it a blessing to have such a beautiful, well-organized facility. She said she appreciates the library’s lodge-like feel as well as what it offers for children.

More than 3,000 children participated in the library’s summer reading program during the past few months and it’s “become more than just a place to access information,” Gish said.

She brought her granddaughter to the library for the first time last summer, she said she was amazed.

“The children’s area just hugs you,” she said. “There’s no better way to explain it.”

Dr. Len Peters, secretary of the state’s energy and environment cabinet, also has a personal connection to the library. Though he lives in Shelby County, he has children and grandchildren in Oldham who often visit the library. He said he’s glad to see they have the opportunity to come to a building recognized for its environmental efficiency.

He said the state hopes to reduce energy use by 18 percent by 2025. It starts, he said, with buildings like the library, but it’s that’s just the beginning.

“Getting an environmentally efficient facility like this,” he said, “is a model for all of the state’s architectural needs in the future.”

E-mail us about this story at: lhagan@oldhamera.com.