Steps Toward Sustainability with Snell Library’s Solar Panels

Dean of the Library Dan Cohen poses next to a solar panel on the Snell Library Quad
Dean of the Library Dan Cohen flips the switch to solar electricity in a ceremony on April 2, 2024.

Northeastern University’s commitment to sustainability was evident at Snell Library on April 2, as the university held a ceremony to unveil the new solar panels installed on the library’s roof as part of the building’s ongoing renovations.

“Libraries have long been associated with light, as places that light up our world. Today, the Northeastern University Library continues this tradition by holding resources and expert staff members that shine light on learning and research,” Dean of the Library Dan Cohen said at the event. “So it’s nice that today we are able to make this association between the library and light literal in addition to metaphorical. We’re thrilled that Snell Library can capture and distribute light in a different way, and that this light will help our campus and our environment.”

The panels will be providing 157.8kWp DC of power to Snell Library and will save around 13,600 kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

The project was led by Northeastern’s Planning, Real Estate, and Facilities (PREF) Division, and the panels’ installation was completed by Ameresco, a leading renewable energy integrator. The undertaking also involved efforts by the Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub, NU Trades, and more.

Infographic with statistics on the sustainability of Snell Library's solar panels

Installing rooftop solar panels on an urban campus is a complicated process with multiple considerations to manage. Limited space and logistical complications meant that the project took nearly a year to plan and execute. But Snell Library proved the perfect location for the panels, with its height, flat roof, and minimal shading, and the ongoing renovations to help ensure a seamless integration to the campus’ electrical grid.

Four workers in construction gear pose with a solar panel on the roof of Snell Library
Some of the team of workers installing solar panels on Snell Library’s roof.

“My hope going forward is that all new buildings are going to be designed to hold solar panels so that they’re maximizing as they go,” said Jacob Glickel, Director of Sustainability Operations for PREF.

The Northeastern University Library is excited to play such an important role in Northeastern’s progression toward sustainability.

For more information about the project, visit the PREF website.

2024 Reading Challenge Update: March Winner and What You Read This Month!

March is over, and with the end of the month comes a new Reading Challenge winner!.Congratulations to Amanda Myron, whose name was drawn this month. Amanda is based at the Roux Institute in Portland, Maine, and will be receiving a Northeastern University Library finals week/end-of-semester care package.

And big congratulations to everyone else who read a book this month and told us about it. There are still nine more months of the Reading Challenge, so if you haven’t won yet, you still have time. For more chances to win, make sure to submit your reading to the Massachusetts Center for the Book, as well as the Northeastern University Library.

What You Read This Month

The theme for March was “a book whose protagonist has a different culture or lifestyle than you,” which opened up a lot of possibilities. Here are some of the stories you enjoyed this month:

Cover of Wandering Stars

Wandering Stars, Tommy Orange
Read the e-book | Listen to the audiobook
“Beautifully written and raw prose from multiple POVs dealing with important historical realities as well as contemporary issues faced by the Native American community. It is important to acknowledge the historical events in this book and the experience of people who lived through them. It was difficult reading because it was real and life is often difficult and messy but there is hope in the end of the book which is a testament to resilience.” — Carla

Cover of The Covenant of Water

The Covenant of Water, Abraham Verghese
Read the e-book | Listen to the audiobook | Find it at Snell
“I absolutely adore Abraham Verghese and was so excited when I learned he had another book coming out. It’s a long book but never felt like it was dragging. I loved it!” — Kerri

“This book makes you wonder about how big and small our lives are at the same time. It encapsulates the life of three generations of the same family set in a small town in Kerala and how the world changing around them is affecting them but also not at the same time…One of the best. Read it many times. Let it sink in.” — Anoushka

Cover of Shark Heart

Shark Heart: A Love Story, Emily Habeck
Read the e-book | Listen to the audiobook
“What a masterpiece of lyrical writing. The author presents us with layered characters with different issues and traumas that manage to find wholeness and joy throughout the painful process of life. — Priscila

Cover of Land of Milk and Honey

Land of Milk and Honey, C Pam Zhang
Listen to the audiobook | Find it at Snell | Find it at F. W. Olin
“Engaging storyline, complex characters, thoughtful setting, and poetic writing. Poses a question to the reader of who they are, of where they’re from, and of what constitutes them.” — Harrison

Cover of The Island of Missing Trees

The Island of Missing Trees, Elif Shafak
Find it at Snell
“I thought I was choosing a different culture by picking a book with a protagonist who is an immigrant from Cyprus living in London. Little did I know that the main protagonist of the book would be a fig tree. A truly insightful, deep, and intriguing read!” — Michal

Cover of The Country of the Blind

The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight, Andrew Leland
Listen to the audiobook | Find it at Snell
“This memoir opened up an entire world for me, one that I was only vaguely aware of before delving into it. Leland’s account of losing his vision to retinitis pigmentosa and the incredible people he’s met on his journey towards becoming blind were at once moving and educational. Before reading this book, the thought of becoming blind myself would have terrified me. Now, I see that blindness is not something to mourn or fear, but rather a different way of being in the world that comes with its own joys and challenges. It’s a beginning, rather than an ending.” — Bianca

And What to Read in April

The theme for April is “a book about nature, the environment, or climate change.” which is perfectly on theme to celebrate Earth Day on April 22. Here are some eco-friendly reads to help you get in touch with nature—even if you’re stuck studying for finals.

Birnam Wood, Eleanor Catton
Read the e-book | Find it at Snell
A guerrilla farming group in New Zealand takes on an American billionaire in this thriller (yes, a thriller about guerrilla farming!) that Stephen King calls “as good as it gets” and “a treat.”

Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World, Christian Cooper
Read the e-book | Listen to the audiobook
Christian Cooper unwittingly came to the public’s attention in May 2020, when a video went viral of a white dog owner calling the police on Cooper, a Black man, after he asked her to leash her dog. But beyond the Central Park incident, Christian Cooper is an avid bird watcher, a science writer and editor, and the first openly gay writer and editor at Marvel Comics. Cooper’s memoir explores the pleasures of nature, travel, and birds.

Yours for the Taking, Gabrielle Korn
Listen to the audiobook
In the climate apocalypse of 2050, cities are in ruins, and the air is toxic. The privileged take refuge in climate-proof settlements, but Ava knows she won’t be among them—until she meets billionaire visionary Jacqueline Millender, who is building the newest climate-proof settlement in New York City. But as Ava and those around her bask in the newfound security of “Inside,” they begin to realize that something is very wrong, and Jacqueline might not be what she seems.

A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through?, Kelly Weinersmith
Read the e-book | Find it at Snell
“Wherever you are on this planet,” this book begins, “you’ve recently given some thought to leaving it.” Human colonization of Mars seems like an alluring option in the face of climate change, but as Kelly Weinersmith points out, we might not have really thought this through. A City on Mars looks at the facts of Martian colonization through a funny and approachable lens, with clever illustrations by the author’s husband.

Exploring Cultural Competence: Insights from Professional Development

One of my professional development goals this year was to develop and improve my cultural competency. Cultural competence is the ability to shift perspective and adapt behavior among cultures.

In support of this goal, I took two training courses that I’d recommend and like to share. The first one was the Association of Moving Image Archivists’ Cross-Cultural Competency Series, which consisted of three webinars given by Alanna Aiko Moore, Librarian for Sociology, Ethnic Studies, and Critical Gender Students at the University of California San Diego Library.

The first session was on Social Identity, Power Dynamics & Privilege. We learned about the role of power and privilege in the workplace and discussed some ideas of how those with more power can use it to create a fairer environment. Some ideas were mentoring, making introductions, practicing microaffirmations, and active listening.

A big part of cultural competency is the ability to understand your own cultural perspective. In this session, we did a poll on which identity we think about least. On top were immigration status, indigenous heritage, and religion. Moore suggested we might use these as guides for further reading and investigation.

The second session was on Organizational Culture, Bias, Microaggressions, and Allyship. We talked about some ways to disrupt bias. One is the implicit association tests from Harvard University. I had taken some of these before, but I got really interested in took most of them. I am using the results to guide my reading projects, particularly a goal to read more books by and about women in STEM.

The final session was Inclusive Recruitment & Retention Policies. Moore talked about some general frameworks: creating a consistent and structured process, be proactively person- and empathy-centered, committing to looking out for bias, and being wary of the notion of “fit.”

One example she gave was the job requirement of excellent written and oral communication skills as ableist. I asked about how to get at this when communication skills are important to the job. She suggested relating it to job responsibilities (for example, high quality customer service), or using a phrase like “ability to communicate effectively and knowledgeably across different mediums.”

Moore also suggested running job descriptions through the gender decoder tool. Some words are coded more masculine while others are coded more feminine. The research suggests that a feminine-coded job description will only have a slight effect on men but will encourage more women to apply.

Next, we talked about fostering a sense of belonging. One way to do this is the stay interview, which aims to supply a venue to understand more about how employees feel about the work, the organization, and their future. Some stay interview questions are:

  • What are we not currently doing as an organization that you feel we should?
  • What growth opportunities are of the most interest to you?
  • What motivates you?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would it be?

The second training was the Essentials of Cultural Competence Course offered by DeEtta Jones and Associates.

Jones talked about the benefits of diversity for business success. Multicultural teams outperform monocultural teams, but only if the team leader is culturally competent. The leader must understand the different cultural backgrounds of the team members and work to bring out the advantages of having different perspectives while navigating the challenges of a lack of shared cultural foundation.

I also had the opportunity to take a test called the Intercultural Development Inventory and have a one-on-one debrief session with a trained facilitator to unpack the meaning of the results and name potential areas for growth. The model outlines a development from a monocultural mindset to an intercultural mindset.

In denial, one doesn’t even see differences.

In polarization, one sees differences and judges it, sometimes in a defensive way, like “my culture is better than others,” and some in a reversal way, like “my culture is worse than others.”

Minimization is the most common attitude among white people in North America. Some examples of this mindset are:

  • describing yourself as “colorblind.”
  • treating everyone the same.
  • believing that we live in a post-racial society.

While noble in intention, this can lead to minimizing differences and requiring people to perform the dominant culture.

In acceptance, one deeply understands differences, and in adaptation, one bridges across differences and is comfortable being in diverse cultures.

The discussion was great, and I created a cultural development plan with journaling and places to increase my knowledge. One of my key areas of growth was focusing on constructivist listening, which is the skill of creating space for others to share without immediately looking for communalities, trying to direct the conversation, or ignore differences. There’s nothing wrong with making connections through similarities, but it’s a matter of balance.

In continuing my explorations, I just finished the book The Culture Map, which discusses how cultures vary around the world on eight different continuums and gives tips for managing international teams.

Washington Post Now Available

The Northeastern University Library is pleased to announce that we now offer online access to the Washington Post for all current Northeastern faculty, staff, and students.

The new subscription allows the Northeastern community to keep up with breaking news and opinion directly through the Washington Post website at or Northeastern readers will be able to select and read all articles without encountering a paywall, as well as share 10 “gift” articles with non-subscriber friends each month. Access includes the Washington Post app, photos, video, audio, reader comments, newsletters, and yes, games and crosswords.

The Washington Post is an important newspaper of record, with the largest circulation in the greater Washington, D.C., area. Its strengths are inside-the-beltway political coverage, national and international news, and a tradition of award-winning investigative journalism.

Setting up access to the Washington Post is easy! Create an account with your Northeastern email address and then follow these instructions to activate free digital access.

As always, we welcome your feedback and please let us know if you need assistance with your account setup.

2024 Reading Challenge Update: February Winner and What You Read This Month!

Congratulations to Jessica Gudin, whose name was drawn this month in the Northeastern prize drawing! Jessica won a gift card to More Than Words, a non-profit, youth-run bookstore based in Boston’s South End.

And thank you to everyone who read a book and told us about it this month! You still have ten more chances to win, so keep reading. (For more chances to win, make sure to submit your reading to the Massachusetts Center for the Book, as well as Northeastern!)

What You Read This Month

February’s theme was “a book with a color in the title,” which offered a full rainbow of reading possibilities (date we say, a reading rainbow?). Here’s a kaleidoscope of hues that engaged readers this month.

Cover of Red Rising

Red Rising, Pierce Brown
“I was so glad I chose this book for February. Having just read Dune in January, I was excited to explore more interstellar science fiction! Brown’s writing style and world view was starkly different than Herbert’s. While I found the story quite predictable, it was fun to reimagine an interstellar world from a different perspective. I especially like how one’s perception of themselves and others can shape their actions and relationships. The characters frequently questioned their loyalties and identities, and challenged traditional notions of allegiance and duty.” — Sudhanva

Cover of the Priory of the Orange Tree

The Priory of the Orange Tree, Samantha Shannon
“This one was a re-read for me. I’ll always remember Priory of the Orange Tree because it was the first book I ever bought at full price. I’d always go to second-hand bookshops to get my books, but this time I had to go for it. And it did not fail to deliver!” — Mit

Cover of Yellowface

Yellowface, R. F. Kuang
“This fell into the category of books where I could not get up and leave it for more than 10 minutes. I was riveted, fascinated, and continually went ‘No…No…NOOOOOO’ out loud. A perfect book club read, and one where you just want to run around and find someone else who has read it and force them to talk about it.” — Dina

“The book [was] about a white woman fictionally speaking about past hate crimes and experiences she never had to go through. She stole her friend’s fame and rose to the top, all for it to crumble in the end.” — Haiden

Cover of Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
“I LOVED THIS BOOK. It was so funny and witty. Anne’s observations make me laugh and it’s refreshing to read.” — Amelia

Cover of All Boys Aren't Blue

All Boys Aren’t Blue, George M. Johnson
“Really good memoir that maintains a delicate balance between personal and emotional stories, and objective messages about how his story is just one way the harmful attitudes of society affects the way someone grows up.” — Sam

Cover of the Color Purple

The Color Purple, Alice Walker
“Dude…you have to read this book. I won’t give any spoilers but it is so moving to see the perspective and experiences of a black woman in the southern United States.” — Gabriella

“The book is amazing, heart-wrenching, and immensely filled with emotion.” — Valeria

Cover of White Fang

White Fang, Jack London
“Oh man, White Fang is wild! It’s all about this wolf-dog’s crazy life from wild to be domesticated. The way London dives into nature vs. nurture and survival themes is pretty dope. Really makes you think about the wild side in all of us. Plus, the journey of White Fang from the wild to understanding humans is just epic. Totally worth the read!” — Sanketh

Cover of Black Panther, Book One

Black Panther, Book One: A Nation Under Our Feet, Ta-Nahisi Coates
“Always fun to read a comic!” — Anoushka

And What to Read Next Month

The theme for March is “a book whose protagonist has a different culture or lifestyle than you.” That’s a pretty big category, but your friendly neighborhood librarians are here to help you narrow it down! Here are a few suggestions:

  • How to Say Babylon is the memoir of Safiya Sinclair, a Jamaican poet who grew up in a strictly Rastafari household. Sinclair’s story takes readers far beyond the familiar Western touchstones of Rasta culture—reggae, dreadlocks, Bob Marley—and reckons with the complexities, traditions, and legacies of Rastafarianism and its place in Jamaican culture.
  • Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body is a collection of essays by disability advocate Rebekah Taussig. Taussig, who is partially paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, longed for disability representation as a child in the 1990s and early 2000s. As an adult, her memoir-in-essays captures the nuance and humanity of disability, and shines a spotlight on the everyday ableism baked into mainstream society.
  • Rental Person Who Does Nothing is Japanese author Shoji Morimoto’s firsthand account of being, well, a rental person who does nothing. “I’m starting a service…available for any situation in which all you want is a person to be there. Maybe there’s a restaurant you want to go to, but you feel awkward going on your own. Maybe a game you want to play, but you’re one person short,” Morimoto writes. Rental Person Who Does Nothing is a strange, funny, fascinating look at Japanese culture, and at the deeply human desire for companionship—even if that companion does nothing.
  • The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight. Andrew Leland has known for many years that he will one day go blind. While he was born sighted, as a teenager, Leland was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, an incurable condition that causes a prolonged loss of vision over many years. Now in his 40s, Leland’s vision has degraded inexorably but significantly since his diagnosis, and he still doesn’t know what comes next. In the fascinating, funny, and illuminating Country of the Blind, Leland explores the history, representation, and culture of blindness, while chronicling his own journey away from sight.
  • Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America follows five high school girls coming of age in Washington County, Maine—north of Bar Harbor, nestled against the New Brunswick border, and home to just 31,000 people spread across 3,260 square miles. Written over four years, Downeast explores all sides of life in rural New England, from the beauty of the craggy coastline to the devastation of opioid addiction. Recommendation: read while listening to Noah Kahan’s Stick Season on repeat.

Need more reading inspiration? Check out our suggested e-books and audiobooks for March, and the Mass Center for the Book has a list of recommended titles. For Boston folks, stop by the Snell Library lobby in person on March 12 and 13 for more recommendations, browsable books, Reading Challenge stickers, and friendly librarians who love talking about books!

And whenever you finish your next book, make sure to tell us about it for a chance to win the March prize drawing.

As always, happy reading!