In recent years, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass), has committed to economic, environmental, and social sustainability. The robust leadership skills and networking know-how of sustainability studies librarian Madeleine Charney have contributed immensely to that effort.
It’s time to ignite a movement in libraries, one that faces head-on the pressing threat brought by climate change and addresses every way we can help to secure a better future, or, in more stark terms, a future for the generations to follow. This seems more imperative every day, but the functional response is limited.
On Leap Day this past February, I gave myself the gift of a Citi Bike membership. In New York City, where Library Journal’s office is located, this bike-sharing service hit the streets in 2013 and has continued to gain traction ever since. Like many, it has had growing pains, but it now touts over 100,000 annual members, and this summer it celebrated a record of 56,000 trips in one day. I ride for part of my commute, replacing what would be an underground subway leg with three-plus miles on the surface. This has given New York back to me, reinvigorating my relationship with the city and allowing me to witness its changeable beauty.
Empower. Engage. Energize. These three words describe the relationship between a sustainable library and its users. It’s a two-way street: a library can empower patrons to do good things by engaging with them to understand their aspirations. A community can feel the authentic interest a library has in being a part of that community’s conversations, whether by being at the table or convening “the table” to find community-based solutions.
Known as “The Librarian on the Move,” Greene has a vision “to pair the promotion of alternate modes of travel with literacy and to make reading more visible and available,” writes nominator Lisa Bunker, electronic resources librarian at Pima County Public Library (PCPL). Inspired by similar projects in Illinois, Greene founded the first-ever public library–sponsored Bookbike program in January 2012, giving free books to people of all ages at various stops and events in Tucson. As of this January, 1,064 miles have been pedaled on the library’s fleet of three bikes, and nearly 40,000 books given away to nearly 39,000 individuals. While the stats are impressive, Greene emphasizes that “it’s really about the personal stories and connections.”
In hot climates, air conditioning is a necessity to keep libraries livable for patrons and staff, especially during the summer. Climate warming is only exacerbating that situation. Unfortunately, air conditioning in turn accelerates climate warming. Now, innovative alternative cooling systems are looking to reduce that environmental impact, and the Alachua County Library District (ACLD), Gainesville, FL, is leading by example.
The American Library Association (ALA) took a crucial step when it passed the Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries at the association’s annual meeting in San Francisco. Now we as a profession face the complex work ahead to make the goals of the resolution real. We have this collective articulation to lean on to make it a priority in a holistic sense—across strategic planning, space design, community engagement, and educational outreach. It is critical that we redouble our efforts.
We talk a lot about resilience when we discuss library sustainability. It is one of the trends identified by Miguel Figueroa, an LJ 2005 Mover & Shaker, in the recent “Forecasting the Future of Libraries” report. It encompasses a broad swath of library work—dynamic programming, deep and robust community commitment to the well-being of the institution, and facility design that can withstand the very real threats of extreme weather change that comes with global warming. Resilience also means creating buildings that don’t drain precious natural resources.