Conference Report: AASHE Annual Conference, 2017

By Betsy Evans

The AASHE Annual Conference and Expo in San Antonio in mid-October (October 15 – 18) was the confluence of a few thousand sustainability professionals and faculty from institutions of higher education around the world. And perhaps only one librarian. (My tweet got only three hearts and no replies!)

Tweet from Betsy E: Any librarians going to @AASHENews Annual Conference in San Antonio? #AASHE2017Sul Ross State University, the public state University for which I work, has agreed to include STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) in our strategic plan for the next five years. I know I’m not the only librarian involved in AASHE, because my inspiration to attend this conference was rooted in Amy Brunvand’s SustainRT webinar, “STARS and Beyond: Adventures of an embedded Librarian in the Campus Sustainability Office.”

I attended the conference as a representative of my institution’s Sustainability Council more than as a librarian, but – once a librarian, always a librarian – I chose to attend lectures on topics related to information literacy and was especially drawn toward ones dealing with mapping sustainability into the curriculum. It was during the Q&A of each session I attended that I made the big reveal by asking about how libraries played into these wonderfully inspirational projects, initiatives and research.

Only one session stood out as a true “library session,” that is, a session on the development of a textbook lending library at Connecticut College. A great idea, no doubt, but I could hardly restrain my frustration when I asked why they hadn’t included the institutional Library on their project when their main challenges were figuring out how to best catalog their collection and how to or whether to charge late fees. (The Lending Library: Addressing Textbook Affordability and Reducing Waste)

The opening keynote speaker, Katharine Hayhoe, the Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University who is well known for her ability to talk across the aisle about climate change, is always an inspiration. But it was Heather Hackman’s closing keynote, along with her October 16 session, “An Introduction to the Role of Race, Class and Gender Issues on Campus Sustainability Work,” who drove the theme of the conference – “Stronger in Solidarity” – reminding me of Hafuboti (Rebecca McCorkindale)’s popular 2017 campaign, “Libraries are for everyone.”  (Hackman is a consultant focusing on social justice and equity.)

By asking questions and having conversations at the Conference’s many “coffee and networking” events and in the halls following sessions, people realized right before my eyes that the concepts of libraries and librarians include many foundations of sustainability. Yes, libraries are for everyone. Yes, libraries are unique places – third places, cornerstones of democracy, places for public trust.

On a personal level, this conference solidified a faculty-library divide that I’ve been feeling in my own institution. But there were moments of pure bliss, too: I had two wonderful conversations with students who were at AASHE for sustainability reasons but had been leaning toward librarianship as a field of study. They “got” it – and that was inspiring.

The takeaway? This annual conference is begging for more librarians to showcase sustainability initiatives and perhaps more importantly, to take part in conversations and level up institutional libraries as transformational spaces for sustainability thinking and leadership.


Betsy Evans is a librarian living and working in Alpine, Texas, currently as the Education and Outreach Librarian at Sul Ross State University. Betsy received her M.S.I.S. from the University of North Texas in 2013 and worked in numerous roles for the Austin (Texas) Public Library before transitioning to academic librarianship in 2016. While interning for the Austin Public Library’s nationally-recognized Recycled Reads bookstore, Betsy served as SustainRT’s first Treasurer. Betsy currently serves on the Sul Ross State University Sustainability Council and the City of Alpine’s Keep Alpine Beautiful Committee. She is committed to better educating herself and her community about waste management and reduction.

Library Journal Interview with Madeleine Charney

SustainRT is in the news, in this interview  with Madeleine Charney from Library Journal!

Championing the Library’s Role in Sustainability.
(Movers and Shakers 2017) Library Journal blog.  November 16, 2017  Madeleine Charney interviewed by Karen Phillips.

Madeleine Charney

Building Communities of Librarians at Home and Beyond: Thoughts From a New Librarian

My introduction to SustainRT happened by chance in the midst of completing some office work during my first year as a library science graduate student. I happened across the roundtable’s name in an online newsletter, and after some digging around I was blown away by the community of librarians that I had just discovered. I’d always been committed to promoting the growth of more sustainable communities through personal endeavors like volunteer work, and my interest in this community was substantial enough that, during my last semester as a graduate student, I decided to complete an independent study on sustainability in librarianship. The purpose of this was to begin building an understanding of how sustainability had been discussed in the field of librarianship, the key issues that had shaped these discussions, and current initiatives and hot topics that librarians were addressing. The “Resources” page on the SustainRT section of ALA’s website proved an invaluable starting ground, and works like Mandy Henk’s Ecology, Economy, Equity and Maria Jankowska’s Focus on Educating for Sustainability significantly shaped my understanding of how intricately sustainability ties into librarianship and how librarians can support the development of more sustainable societies. The knowledge that I gained through this study, and the related projects that I completed during the course of that semester, solidified my commitment to supporting sustainable practices as an academic librarian and to actively incorporating sustainability work into my long-term career goals.

Prior to embarking on this study, I had both a very narrow understanding of what sustainability meant and only a vague notion of how it could connect to librarianship. My interactions with fellow students showed that I certainly wasn’t alone in this; whenever I mentioned the topic of my study, more than a few were simply surprised at the notion of connecting those two areas. Others, though, expressed a strong interest in hearing more about what I was reading and learning, as well as a desire for more opportunities to learn about topics like this. Those reactions got me thinking about opportunities, or rather missed opportunities, for MLS students and early career librarians to learn about a topic that is so central to our work. Regardless of the specific subset of librarianship in which one chooses to work, the core mission of SustainRT – promoting a “more equitable, healthy, and economically viable society”1 – connects to all of our work and the relationships we build with our communities. I strongly believe that learning about sustainability in its broadest sense and how it connects to our individual roles as librarians can help us all orient our work and formulate the larger contributions that we wish to make in our communities. There are some incredible resources available online that provide these opportunities for education and reflection, and without SustainRT I wouldn’t have known the full extent of how librarianship connects to building sustainable communities or been introduced to the work of so many inspiring librarians across the country. Yet I missed the chance to engage more with my fellow students and build an in-house community for learning about and discussing these issues, especially considering that real, meaningful discussions of the broader social and political forces that shape our work was largely absent from our formal education. While I had the time and means to explore these issues in-depth and even incorporate them into actual coursework, many of my peers didn’t necessarily share that. These limitations make the existence of groups like SustainRT all the more necessary, but having the opportunity to also meet with peers in-person, share new information, and build a supportive network right at home is a valuable way of translating ideas from this national community to our immediate lives. Understanding how our work, both collectively and as individuals, can support the resiliency of the communities we serve is a vital aspect of our education as librarians, and the existence of these national and local groups supports both our professional and personal growth.

Looking back on my study, my only regret is that I didn’t focus on developing this very sort of community- one that could introduce other students to sustainability resources while providing immediate opportunities for us to come together and reflect on how they shape our work – with others who were equally interested in sustainability. I had focused heavily on educating the wider university community, by developing research guides on sustainability resources and coordinating library events that promoted campus sustainability groups, but I didn’t fully consider working with my fellow librarians to educate us all until it was too late. Granted, this took place during my final semester of graduate school, when my time on campus was winding down and the terror of the job hunt was looming large. But while this opportunity was missed during my school years, I hope to support the development of an active community devoted to addressing sustainability at my current institution. This will include sharing educational resources with my fellow librarians and seeking out opportunities for us to come together and discuss both our concerns about sustainability issues and what we can do to address them at our library. I also hope to expand that community of librarians to include other concerned individuals across campus, thereby developing an even stronger understanding of how to create a more sustainable campus. I’m eager to focus on this work and to learn more about what others have done to promote discussions of sustainability at their libraries, and would welcome any stories that others can share of their experiences creating such communities. The range of factors that threaten the vitality and very existence of our communities is daunting, and I hope that we as a profession (and myself personally) are active changemakers instead of passive responders. I’m encouraged by the community here at SustainRT and throughout the wider library profession, and hope to continue harnessing the power of this roundtable as a means of connecting and sharing ideas to build active, local communities at home.

  1. “Sustainability Round Table.” (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved from


Sarah Klimek recently began working as the U.S. History Librarian at Michigan State University. She received her M.L.S. from Indiana University in May 2017, where she worked as a Public Services Assistant and a Teaching & Learning Graduate Assistant at the Herman B Wells Library. Prior to her M.L.S., she received a B.A. in history with a certificate in early childhood education from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. As an early-career librarian, Sarah is dedicated to supporting the growth of resilient and sustainable communities – she is a member of SustainRT and recently published an article on the availability of government information on sustainability in the Winter 2016 issue of Documents to the People. She is also a member of ALA and ACRL, and looks forward to being an active member of these communities.

SustainRT Webinars for 2017-2018

Nine Reasons for Hope in a World Out of Whack
(Thurs. Nov. 9 12:15-12:45pm EST)

Please join us Thursday, Nov. 9, 12:15 – 12:45 p.m. EST for the Fall 2017 SustainRT webinar.
Our speaker will be Ellen Moyer, author of the book Our Earth, Our Species, Our Selves: How to Thrive While Creating a Sustainable World.

Ellen Moyer

Dr. Moyer, a registered professional engineer and a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Accredited Professional, helps government agencies and Fortune 500 companies clean up hazardous waste sites, prevent environmental damage, analyze impacts, and provide educational outreach. She will talk about reasons for hope that we can solve dire environmental problems such as climate change facing our world and successfully upgrade to a high-tech and high-nature way of life that will sustain us and our fellow species far into the future. Dr. Moyer will also share concrete actions we can take to help ourselves and our world at the same time, including the one most important action for getting started. Attend the webinar on November 9 to find out more!


Register HERE. Free and open to all.


History of SustainRT

Would you like to know more about the history of SustainRT?  Here are some useful sources of information:

SustainRT History URL:

Abstract: The ALA Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) morphed out of ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table’s Task Force on the Environment (TFOE) during “Libraries for Sustainability,” a four-part series of free webinars offered in 2012. New leaders emerged from our virtual “grass roots” to form an interim steering committee. The next step was gathering 100 signatures for the petition to create SustainRT. More than 100 were gathered. At Midwinter 2013, SRRT leadership gave us their blessing as such, and approval of the Round Table at ALA Council was swift.

Libraries for Sustainability: a Four Part Webinar Series.  Facilitators: Madeleine Charney, Bonnie J. Smith, Beth Filar-Williams.   URL:


“A Call to Action” – Part 1 of Webinar Series “Libraries for Sustainability” February 28, 2012.

“Exploring Sustainability Practices in Libraries” – Part 2 of Webinar Series “Libraries for Sustainability” April 24, 2012.

“Engagement in Professional Library Organizations” – Part 3 of Webinar Series “Libraries for Sustainability” June 12, 2012.

“Exploring More Sustainability Practices in Libraries” – Part 4 of Webinar Series “Libraries for Sustainability” August 28, 2012.

[Journal Article]
Williams, Beth Filar, Madeleine Charney, and Bonnie Smith. “Growing our vision together: forming a sustainability community within the American Library Association.” Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy 11, no. 2 (2015). URL:

Abstract: In 2014, after two years of focused research and promotion, the American Library Association (ALA) approved a new group, the Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT). This article describes how library advocates built SustainRT over the years and gained momentum with a pivotal webinar series. Clear signs of SustainRT’s early success are a testimony to the critical need for a sustainability-related Community of Practice (CoP). The article shows how the steps taken to achieve this national group’s standing can serve as a model for fostering dialogue and collaboration (often through virtual means) that allows for wide participation.

Charney, Madeleine and Smith, Bonnie and Filar Williams, Beth (2016) Growing our Vision Together: A Sustainability Community within the American Library Association. Poster presented at: IFLA WLIC 2016 – Columbus, OH – Connections. Collaboration. Community in Session 101 – Poster Sessions.  URL:

Abstract: This poster reports on the formation of the American Library Association (ALA) Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) in 2013, the result of an urgent call to action for a unified effort to address the new millennium’s environmental, economic and social sustainability challenges within the library profession in the United States and Canada. This poster identifies the technologies, processes, roles and other factors that led to the founding of SustainRT, as well as providing a vision for the future based on its participatory and inclusive structure.


  • SustainRT Annual Report 2016-2017
  • ALA Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries (2015)
  • ALA Task force on Sustainability (2015).
    The formation of the ALA Task Force on Sustainability is a direct outgrowth of the 2015 resolution introduced by SustainRT and co-chaired by SustainRT’s Immediate Past Coordinator, Rene Tanner and Chair of the Governance Committee, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich.  The Task Force is charged to develop a white paper that describes areas of focus and recommendations for the ALA Executive Board to increase the adoption and implementation of
    sustainable practices by the Association, the profession, libraries and the
    communities they serve. Timeline: Interim report to the ALA Executive Board, 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting, Denver; Final report to the ALA Executive Board, 2018 ALA Annual Conference, New Orleans

Special ALA Task Force on Sustainability Formed

Jim NealALA president Jim Neal has announced the formation of a  A new Task Force on Sustainability in order to help increase implementation of sustainable practices by the Association, the profession, libraries, and their communities.

The Special ALA Task Force on Sustainability is charged to develop a white paper that describes areas of focus and recommendations for the ALA Executive Board to increase the adoption and implementation of sustainable practices by the Association, the profession, libraries and the communities they serve.
The ALA Executive Board has asked the Task Force to develop a white paper, and to deliver a final report by the 2018 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans.
Members of the Task Force are Monika Antonelli (Minnesota State University), Sara Dallas (Southern Adirondack Library System), Adrian K. Ho (University of Kentucky Libraries), Traci Engel Lesneski (MSR, MN), Margaret Sullivan (Margaret Sullivan Studio, NY), Margaret Woodruff (Charlotte Library, VT), and Christian Zabriskie (Urban Libraries Unite, NY). The Task Force will be co-chaired by Rebekkah Smith Aldrich (Mid-Hudson Library System) and Rene M. Tanner (Arizona State University). The staff liaison will be Mary Ghikas (ALA Senior Associate Executive Director – and Interim Executive Director), working with Danielle Alderson (ALA Member Programs and Services).

American Libraries Blog Series on Sustainability in Libraries

Beginning in April 2017, “American Libraries” magazine has been publishing an excellent series of online articles on the theme Sustainability in Libraries.

Take a look at the thought provoking articles that have been published so far in this series:



Free SustainRT Membership for Students!

The ALA Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) is pleased to announce free memberships for LIS students!

Beginning September 1, 2017, students may join SustainRT for free. To qualify for a free membership, students must be:

  •  Currently enrolled in ALA-accredited Master of Library Science/Master of Library and Information Science (MLS/MLIS) program.
  • Student members of ALA.

SustainRT strives to achieve a more equitable, healthy and economically viable society by providing resources for the library community to support sustainability through curriculum development; collections; exhibits; events; advocacy, communication, library buildings and space design. SustainRT is a member of the ALA’s recently formed Office of Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services (ODLOS) which supports library and information science workers in creating responsible and all-inclusive spaces that serve and represent the entire community.

Membership affords ample leadership opportunities to infuse sustainability throughout the library profession.

Inquiries may be directed to Madeleine Charney, Chair, SustainRT Membership Committee mcharney [at]

Press Release:

Upcoming webinar: Transformational Resilience

Please join us for our next SustainRT webinar on Thursday, 6/8/17 from 12:15-12:45 PM (Eastern).

Bob Doppelt will speak to us on the topic, “Transformational Resilience: How Building Human Resilience to Climate Disruption Can Safeguard Society and Increase Well-being.”


About our presenter:

Bob Doppelt is Executive Director of The Resource Innovation Group (TRIG), a non-partisan social science-based sustainability and global climate change education, research and technical assistance organization affiliated with the Center for Sustainable Communities at Willamette University, where he is also a Senior Fellow. In addition, Bob is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management at the University of Oregon where he teaches systems thinking and global warming policy. He has also taught at the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco and the Bainbridge Graduate Institute on sustainable management.

Bob is the author of Leading Change toward Sustainability: A Change Management Guide for Business, Government, and Civil Society (Greenleaf Publishing, 2003), The Power of Sustainable Thinking: How To Create a Positive Future for the Climate, The Planet, Your Organization and Your Life, (Earthscan Publishing, 2008) and Transformational Resilience: How to Use Climate Change and Related Adversities to Learn, Grow and Thrive (Greenleaf Publishing, 2016). He also writes regular columns on global warming for the Eugene Register-Guard and the Salem Statesman-Journal newspapers and is a frequent speaker at workshops and conferences in the U.S. and Europe.

Check out his website here.

Conference Report: Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene

May 13-14, NYU
By Amy Brunvand

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work. –Wendell Berry

At the recent Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene Colloquium held at New York University (LAAC17 for short), Hurricane Sandy was on the minds of many Librarians. They weren’t just worried about how to protect valuable collections from rising sea levels, they were also developing ideas about how libraries could help people in disaster zones. If the library-of-the-future is a community center, the thinking went, then librarians need to think long and hard about how to serve communities caught in the crisis of global climate change.

The “Anthropocene,” in case you aren’t up on geological technical jargon, refers to a global layer of sediment deposited by human activity, a deep-time marker of what Elizabeth Kolbert calls “The Sixth Extinction” (2014). The idea has become a potent metaphor for a world where human beings are a geological force of deposition and erosion, though let’s be clear, human influence doesn’t put people in the driver’s seat. The reason we need a concept like sustainability is because the terrifying alternative is systems collapse.

So the experience of attending LAAC17 was a little bit like combining a librarians’ conference with a speculative science fiction novel. In fact, the keynote delivered by Roy Scranton cited various works of science fiction in order to consider possible Anthropocene futures. Scranton is the author of “Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization” (2015), which I have not yet read, but it’s going straight to the top of my list.

Library collections are also metaphors for the Anthropocene as librarians struggle to both preserve information about a vanishing past and to support generation of new knowledge to cope with an uncertain future. The fragility of the electrical grid is worrisome, and yet a large-scale digital library like  Hathi Trust is packed with information about pre-digital, regionally appropriate ways of doing things. Rick Prelinger, curator of the eponymous Prelinger Library, sparked discussion with his talk on Collecting Strategies for the Anthropocene. “We exist to oppose presentism,” he said, noting that “appraisal decisions often look short-sighted a few years after they are made.” But he added that social action often results from erasures that we hope to repair.

Social action was the theme of Saturday’s field trip to the Interference Archive, an open stacks collection in Brooklyn that holds materials created by people working for social transformation in order to encourage creative engagement with history and current struggles. The website notes, “We consider the use of our collection to be a way of preserving and honoring histories and material culture that is often marginalized in mainstream institutions. All members of our community are welcome and encouraged to shape our collection and programming.” Perhaps other archives could adopt this kind of community-driven mission.

Still, there must be a balance between access and preservation.  Recently librarians like Laurie Allen have been involved in data rescue, rushing to save U.S. government data on climate change before it is “disappeared” by the Trump administration. Nonetheless, public involvement can nudge policy in the right direction and law librarian Sarah Lamdan discussed ways to help people access environmental information from government sources and take advantage of legally required public comment periods.

Resilience and adaptation are two concepts deeply connected to a sense of place, and scholars in the Environmental Humanities are breaking new ground in our understanding of what it means to live in place.  Indeed, many of the presentations on place-based themes crossed the boundary from librarianship to art.  The Next Epoch Seed Library documents weedy urban lots; the trees needed to print Future Library 2114 have only just been planted;  The Library of Approximate Locations examines our relationships to natural resources; and GHG.EARH makes the sound of climate change.

And of course, there are the traditional library responses of programming, collections, displays, and reference help to connect people with essential information.  At coffee breaks and over dinner I heard many participants say how relieved they felt to be among like-minded people. A dominant story of the future of libraries has been about consolidation, deaccessioning and the rise of big, shiny technology (one group of presenters got a big laugh by deriding a list of buzzwords from the Center for the Future of Libraries as a “library conference bingo”).  But at LAAC17 the core question was, what it would mean to if we truly believe that libraries are symptoms of democracy and civilization? Amanda Avery suggested “steampunk” as a word to describe the fusion of high/low tech that defines libraries for the Anthropocene. Robots? How about people. Digital natives?  How about indigenous knowledge. Maker movement? How about re-skilling. Gamification? How about writing your own story. Anonymity? How about community.

Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene: A Colloquium was hosted by projectARCC and Litwin Books, LLC at NYU, May 13-14, 2017.  Many thanks to the planning committee: Casey E. Davis Kaufman, Madeleine Charney and Rory Litwin.  The event was live-streamed, and presentations are available to view online at