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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK Automation in the sorting room handles the 1 million-plus items checked out of the library each year. A 300-foot conveyor belt carries items from the book drops to the sorting room. A radio-frequency identification chip card in each book is read, and the conveyor drops the book into the appropriate bin - fiction, nonfiction, juvenile, movies, audio and more. An employee puts the returned books on carts for each department, which are then pushed to the section and the books reshelved.

The sun shone bright and hot last week, so the 20 or so students in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute took shelter in the shadow of a giant solar panel on the roof of the Fayetteville Public Library.

Sam Palmer, director of facilities and sustainability for the library, was leading the group on a behind-the-scenes tour.


The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Arkansas offers courses, lectures, workshops and special events for “seasoned” adults. Offerings often are driven by member interest and might be led by UA faculty, community members or other experts.

Membership is $50 or $40 for active members of the Arkansas Alumni Association.

Information: 575-4545,

By the Numbers

Items in collection


(includes physical and digital collections)

Items checked out each year


Number of visitors per day

1,706 average

Number of visitors per year


Size of old library on Dickson Street

24,000 square feet

Size of current library building

88,000 square feet

Size of coming addition

80,000 square feet

Number of employees

50 full-time equivalents

Number of (active) volunteers


SOURCE: Fayetteville Public Library

Fayetteville Public Library

Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to Saturday; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Address: 401 W. Mountain St.

Information: 856-7000,

The solar panels were installed seven years ago in a partnership with the University of Arkansas senior engineering class thanks to a grant, Palmer explained. However, the technology is a bit out of date, he admitted.

These 13-kilowatt panels produce only enough energy to power just two average Arkansas homes. "We consume everything these provide," Palmer said.

Today's technology is much less expensive to purchase and to operate, and Palmer said he hopes the planned expansion of the library will operate on 80 to 100 percent solar power. "For the first time in Arkansas, it is viable," he said.

Palmer also pointed out the roof is covered with a rubber membrane and white reflective liner.


As Palmer shared green technology at the current library building, he referred often to the library expansion.

Fayetteville voters Aug. 9 approved two millage increases for operating expenses and to purchase the property of the former Fayetteville City Hospital for an expansion of the library. Architectural designs of the new 8,000 square feet of space are expected next month and won't be completed without sessions for community input. The library plans the first meetings for Oct. 2-4.

"Most of our projects come from public input," Palmer said. "Somebody throws out an idea, and it's a great idea that we never would have thought of."

The current library building was completed and opened in 2005. "We started planning for this building in the year 2000," Palmer said. "We started planning for this addition four years ago, and we're two years out.

"We're talking about what kind of technology we want, and can we get there," he explained. "We're looking at what other libraries are doing. We're a progressive community. What we've done, nobody has done."

"The big question everybody has is this view," Palmer told the group happily back inside the air conditioned building. They sat in lounge chairs in the Ellipse section, taking in a picturesque hilltop view of the Boston Mountains south of Fayetteville -- a view blocked by the solar panel under which they took refuge.

"The view stays," he assured. "And maybe we'll have another view from the new section."

Library patrons also enjoy that view from the terrace off the children's library. They sit in porch-type swings covered by awnings. Typically, they overlook a roof garden.

But the plants suffered from blight and were pulled before they died, Palmer said. He was unsure if the garden will be replanted before construction, but he noted the addition might provide opportunity for expansion of the garden.

The tiles on the floor of the terrace were laid with gaps between them to drain and collect the water from rain, Palmer pointed out. "Just three minutes of rain will water the roof garden two to three times," he said. "The garden has only been watered twice."

Palmer also pointed to glass awnings that project from the windows at 90 degree angles. "They cast a shadow when the sun is in every part of the sky," he said. That allows no direct sunlight into the building, but still keep the rooms bright.

"They still allow maximum view, and you don't know they are there from the inside."

Palmer also noted that the walls are built 2 feet thick in some areas to act as a thermal barrier.

Palmer served as a consultant on the mechanical and engineering aspects of the current building as it was constructed and was hired full time by the library 13 years ago.

He proudly showed a plaque in the lobby of the library honoring the building's 2006 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design award from the U.S. Green Building Council.

"LEED-certified buildings are resource efficient," reads the council's website. "They use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As an added bonus, they save money."

"We were the very first in Arkansas to apply, but the second to get it because the other building was finished before ours was. But in 2004, it was very unusual."


By design, the library used only construction materials that could be sourced within a 500-mile radius of Fayetteville, and some of these were made on special order for the library. The stone in the lobby came from Prairie Grove, Palmer pointed out as an example. The ceiling tiles are made of 100 percent recycled newspaper.

Just like the paint on the walls, the carpet and furniture were designed to reduce emissions. "There was no 'new car smell,'" he said.

And the carpet was laid in squares made from recycled fabrics and backed with a material made from recycled tires -- "and they stay sticky for 13 years," Palmer said, as he pulled up a corner of carpet in the children's library to explain.

"Carpet squares are not unique," he said, "but they are out of fashion. But when they're worn out, we return them to the company, and they recycle it -- which we like as part of a sustainable effort. We pay for a new one with a discount.

"And instead of replacing the whole carpet, we just replace the square, and I have lots of them downstairs."

Even the destruction of the City Hospital building will be sustainable.

"As materials are removed, they will be recycled," Palmer said. The bricks of the walls will be ground to create a base for the foundation. Steel beams from the structure of the building and copper line running throughout the hospital to provide medical treatment will be sold, with money going back into the construction project.

"Even the few things that can't be recycled, we will track by weight how much reaches the landfill," he said.

NAN Our Town on 08/31/2017

Print Headline: Beyond the books

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