Why Are All The (beep’n) Lights On In Here?


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I am sitting in the a library in the town I used to live in as I await my wife to finish her day at work. Because we only have one car, and I had a doctor’s appointment today (which got canceled when I got there – very frustrating), I had to drive her to work so I could drive to my appointment. That was at 11:00 this morning, so since then I have been here in the library using the free wireless and I just realized something; every light and computer monitor is on in here. Big deal, right? Well, this building is a brand new library with the entire roof made of glass skylights – the daylight floods in here and illuminates every single corner of the library, yet every light is on throughout the entire building, along with at least 12 computer monitors that have not been in use since I got here. I just asked the librarian why all the monitors were on, figuring she had no say in the lights being on, and her answer was “well, if the monitors are off, people will think the computers are all broken”. Really? Library patrons are that dumb that they cannot A. figure out the monitor is off or B. read a sign that could be put on each computer mentioning the fact? Add in that all the monitors are the big old CRT kind, not flat panels, so you know they are sucking electricity.

I have resigned myself to the fact that for some reason, many people leave their work computers and monitors on all night and all weekend…I cannot figure out why, but I realize that there is nothing I can do about it. The bank on the corner down the street from me has over 12 floors of lights on 24/7, and the computers on the ground floor are proudly displaying their Windows screensavers all night and weekend. But I cannot break in and turn the machines off, so I walk on by pretending not to notice.

But here in the library? Where people are sharing computers (which is a good thing, mind you), they could not just put a simple sign up saying “the monitor is off, please click here to turn it on, and click here again when you are done to turn it back off. thanks!”? Would anyone really notice if you guys turned off 1/2 the lights, or, get ready for this…ALL the lights, in the middle of the day when the sun is lighting this place for free?

When you start thinking about this kind of stuff taking place in every library in every town in every state across the country, then throw in every company as well, we really do waste an incredible amount of energy. I am thinking that we could probably stop building new power plants if we would only start paying attention to how much we waste!

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  1. New library with a skylit roof? I would hope it had a daylight management system that automatically turned the lights on and off to maintain the target light level.

  2. As for the office computers, where I work we are obligated to leave them on overnight. I don’t like it either (at least we have flat-panel monitors), but the reason is that software is updated pretty frequently and only at night, so everyone leaving their machines on is the only way to make sure every single computer in the company is updated properly.

    I’m not saying it’s good, just that it’s a reason. No excuse not to turn the monitors off, though!

  3. I work in a library with huge windows and tons of daylight, but the lights are all on all day long. On a positive note, we used to print individual sheets of paper for every single book on hold that we had to go pull off the shelves, and after a year of my complaints we finally switched to a system where we print a list of the items instead – it fits about six books to a page, so we’re using six times less paper these days for that project (sometimes there will be nearly 200 books on hold in a day, so it’s quite a few sheets of paper that we’re saving). Now I just have to start talking about the lights being on…

  4. I run a municipal office at the local wastewater treatment facility. I leave my computer on 24/7 because all of the computers in the offices are networked through my computer to the printer. No one can print without my computer being turned on. To fully turn on my computer, it is password protected, so only I can turn it on.

    We leave hallway lights on 24/7 so that police can see into the building during security drivebys. I would think that your multistory office building with all of the lights on has all of its passageways on the outside of the building. Hallways/passageways normally remain lit as a safety precaution.

    I agree that some of these practices should be rethought, but under the old resource saturated way of thinking, the energy useage was considered practical.

  5. This is why occupancy sensors make so much sense. If somebody is there the lights come on. These are readily available too – perhaps not the commodity that an ordinary light switch is, but they are not rocked science either.

  6. Lynn- I do understand why some computers need to be left on, but I cannot imagine why monitors need to be left on 24/7. And unfortunately, the building has it’s offices on all outside walls, meaning all those lights are in the offices that are left on, not just in the hallways. I wish it was just the hallways though!

    Agreed Lavardera, it makes perfect sense for big areas like that!

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