March 22, 2018

Madeleine Charney | Movers & Shakers 2017 – Innovators

Madeleine Charney


Sustainability Studies Librarian,
W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts, Amherst


MA, Sustainable Landscape Planning and Design, Conway School of Landscape Design, 2003; MLIS, University of Rhode Island, 1991


Photo by Patrick Heagney


Sustainability First

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.

Charney spearheaded the Library Sustainability Fund, which provides philanthropic support for faculty grants, student scholarships, programming, and more; the fund has received nearly $240,000 in donations as of January. It also financed the first three years of the Sustainability Curriculum Fellowship—a yearlong program that empowers select faculty members to integrate sustainability themes into their courses. “Seeing faculty from such diverse disciplines [as nursing, landscape architecture, Judaica, and farming] sitting elbow to elbow…inside the library” has been extremely rewarding, she says. So far, 39 professors across 22 disciplines have been involved.

“Madeleine has become the go-to person connecting the sustainability communities across campus,” says Isabel Espinal, human research services librarian at UMass. “She is always ready to collaborate, assist, connect, and demystify in order to achieve the greatest impact.”

Charney isn’t just making waves at UMass: in 2013, she cofounded the American Library Association’s Sustainability Roundtable: Libraries Fostering Resilient Communities, which successfully proposed the groundbreaking Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries. Above all, Charney believes that libraries, academic and otherwise, and sustainability go hand in hand. “Every academic library should have a sustainability librarian.”



This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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  1. Congrats!!

  2. Amy Brunvand says:

    How wonderful to see sustainability in the spotlight! As a member of the ALA Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) I can attest that Madeleine Charney has been doing some truly impressive work to promote sustainable thinking and practice in the world of librarianship. I am particularly pleased that Charney and SustainRT have helped to shift the conversation about the future of libraries away from cold technological fantasies of paperless, placeless, libraries to a vision of libraries that are firmly rooted in place and actively working to foster community resilience. To me, concepts of sustainability provide a heart and soul of library values that has been missing from purely technological visions. If librarians can start to think about technological change in a context of sustainability, I think we will be on the right track.