Meet Jodi Shaw, Candidate for Coordinator Elect of SustainRT!

Jodi ShawBiography: Jodi Shaw

I am a children’s librarian at the Carroll Gardens branch of Brooklyn Public Library. Most of my job duties consist of planning, promoting and executing high-quality programming for youth ages 0-13. I also do a lot of school outreach, reader’s advisory and reference services. I am constantly expanding my knowledge of children’s literature and learning something new and amazing every day. I am deeply passionate about public service, public space, organizational culture, sustainable community, leadership development and personal growth. I am an avid urban cyclist, storyteller, songwriter, poet, meditator and mother of twin boys.

I am also currently running for the position of coordinator-elect of the SustainRT, so please log into your ALA voting page and vote!

 Why am I a Member of the Sustainability Round Table?

Things are looking pretty good for me.

I have hot, running, clean water –on demand.

At one of the many grocery stores within a few miles of my home, I can find any kind of of food I could possibly want, including fresh year-round produce and an endless supply of plastic bags to carry it all home in.

I have a safe place to sleep at night. I have heat in the winter, cooling in the summer, a stove to cook on and a refrigerator to keep my food from spoiling. I have easy access to quality education and health care for myself and my children. Amazing!

And there’s more: roads, bridges, post offices, internet access, a sewage and waste disposal system, police protection, all the media and entertainment I could ever hope for, libraries . . .  In other words, I have an infrastructure that supports a comfortable lifestyle in a nation that has a stable government (without which none of the above would be likely).

Am I living in paradise or what?

No, actually, I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country (NYC) and make what some in my community would call a “modest” salary of just under $50k per year. But all my basic needs are met, and then some. This is my definition of “wealth.”

In fact, on a global level, I am the 1%.

That is why I find efforts to digitize more stuff, give every child an iPad, or build a space station on Mars uninteresting. I am more interested in questions like “How can I and others in my community sustain this lifestyle we have, and how can we enable others to obtain and sustain such a lifestyle?”

As a mother and human being sharing a tiny planet with billions of other human beings, all of whom –more or less- have the same basic needs that I do, questions like this concern me on a deep level.

I realize that some –maybe even a majority- of my wealth comes at the expense of others, and I wonder: is my lifestyle possible without denying others their basic needs?

I know I could live with less. I don’t *require* hot running water 24 hours per day; I don’t need to eat strawberries in the middle of winter; and I would be content with only two brands of cereal to choose from. I could (and do!) bring my own bags to the grocery store. I could go without 300 cable channels. I could ride my bike more and drive my car less (or not at all). I could turn the heat down in the winter and wear more sweaters. Even if I did all these things, I would still be extremely wealthy compared to a majority of people on the planet. But much of my wealth would still come at the expense of others, because while the circumstances leading to my wealth (and much of the poverty in the world) are complicated, I believe much of it is due to the (increasing) centralization of resources. So, while living with less is probably a requirement for sustainability, it is not the only answer.

Climate change is forcing us to confront things like increasing geo-political instability, rapidly declining access to clean water, safe and healthy food, health care, quality education, increasing numbers of political and eco-refugees, and a general decline in the quality of our physical infrastructure, further complicating our ability to access centralized resources. It is clear that centralization of resources -energy, food, political power, jobs, and information- is an unsustainable model for survival, let alone wealth.

I am not the first to suggest that de-centralization of resources is a prerequisite to a sustainable future. There are many local communities empowering themselves, taking themselves “off the grid” in ways that enable them to live a sustainable lifestyle that fulfills their basic needs and doesn’t exploit other human beings.

And libraries are a natural platform from which to lead such movements. Libraries are ready-made infrastructures from which people can organize, create tools, and build effective collaborations with neighboring communities to help their community make the difficult transition away from dependence upon centralized resources and on to local ones. In fact, I believe libraries are the linchpin to the sustainability movement.

According to the ALA’s 2015 State of America’s Libraries Report, “Academic, public and school libraries are … no longer just places for books, libraries of all types are viewed as anchors, centers for academic life and research and cherished spaces.”1

In The Guardian, Larra Clark suggests we must “move from a historical idea of libraries as merely physical repositories to seeing them as an opportunity for proactive community engagement.”2

As public property, libraries can also leverage their physical space for a brighter future. One example: library as farm. Brooklyn Public Library has sixty branches in its system. That’s sixty rooftops of farmland, sixty rooftops of food for the community and sixty “classrooms” from which to teach the next generation how to provide for themselves. The added benefit of cooling in the summer and insulating in the winter make rooftop farms a no-brainer. Or . . . those same sixty rooftops might be used for solar power – enough to supply the entire Brooklyn library system and get creative with their physical space.

To sum up, I believe:

  • A sustainable future is only possible through local organized community efforts.
  • Libraries are the most effective platforms from which to organize and lead such movements.
  • My role as a librarian goes well beyond collection development and programming and into the realm of community organizing.

And that is why I am a member of the ALA Sustainability Round Table.

I would love to hear your reactions to this post. I welcome all viewpoints and encourage an open discussion of how we can leverage ourselves and our libraries to meet the very real demand of a sustainable future for our communities.

1 2015 State of America’s Libraries: A Report from the American Library Association,” Public Library Use: ALA Library Fact Sheet, American Library Association, accessed April 2, 2016.

2 Clark, Larra. “How US Libraries are Becoming Community Problem Solvers,” The Guardian, March 26, 2014.

Meet Mary Beth Lock, Candidate for Member-at-Large (Two Year Term) of SustainRT!


My name is Mary Beth Lock and I am running for Member-at-Large for SustainRT. I’d like to introduce myself so you can be better informed as you decide who will be your representatives on the round table.  I’ve been a proponent of sustainability initiatives since before I received my Environmental Science degree in 1991. Through my passion for recycling, (and a great deal of grit and determination) I initiated a paper recycling program in the Wayne State University Library system in 1990.  In addition, I’ve worked in the public sector as a recycling education coordinator.  As my career has advanced, and my influence in libraries has increased, my efforts lately have moved to sustainable purchases in the library and minimizing waste production.   I have chosen to work in libraries because I recognize that the very foundation of sharing limited resources for all the public is sustainability in practice. A library’s goals align with my own.

As your Member-at-Large I hope to enrich SustainRT’s influence in ALA. I will encourage our ability to be a clearinghouse of information to the libraries we serve. Creative librarians are developing answers entrenched problems every day.  I hope that by sharing good ideas widely, our impact to the profession will increase, and our environment will be the better for it. I hope that we can join together to bring about a more sustainable future.

Thanks for your interest!

Meet Debby Emerson, Candidate for Member-at-Large (Two Year Term) of SustainRT!

Debby EmersonGreetings! My name is Debby Emerson and I am a candidate for a two-year term as Member-at-Large for SustainRT.

I was inspired to pursue this because of my involvement with the New York Library Association (NYLA) and its Sustainability Initiative. I’ve been an ALA member for many years, but other than attending annual conferences, I haven’t really been very engaged. I look at this as an opportunity to get involved, share information, and learn from other members of SustainRT.

In 2014, NYLA Council passed a Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries, recognizing the need to promote the role libraries can play in larger community conversations about resiliency, climate change and a sustainable future for the communities we serve. In the Fall of 2015, a select group of New York’s library leaders came together as Co-Creators to shape strategies to ensure our libraries remain vital, are able to rebound from disruption, and provide on-going value to the communities they serve. The Sustainability Initiative’s purpose statement is:

To create leadership and provide tools to mobilize libraries to think and act sustainably,

In a way that builds awareness and consensus while inspiring action by members of the library community to won their role as sustainability leaders in their communities,

So that communities thrive, bounce back from disruption and are infused with new and better life for everyone.

The group has divided into several working teams: Agents of Change, Benchmarking, Environmental Scan, Making the Case, and Roadmaps. I am part of the Benchmarking team and one of our tasks has been to come up with a list of existing benchmarks by which libraries can assess their sustainability. We specifically looked for existing standards rather than trying to “re-invent the wheel”. The teams have bi-monthly conference calls that keep all the Co-Creators informed about each other’s activities and progress on the initiative as a whole.

The NYLA Sustainability initiative has approached sustainability from the perspective of the Triple Bottom Line: In order for something (a product, policy, institution or community) to be truly sustainable it must meet three criteria: It must be socially equitable, economically feasible, and environmentally sound.

I am the current president of NYLA and I’m very excited to watch the Sustainability Initiative take shape. Each year the president picks a theme for the year and the annual NYLA Conference typically revolves around that theme.  I have selected “Strong. Strategic. Sustainable.” as my theme, with the idea that libraries are strong, strategic and sustainable, and we should also see our state professional association as strong, strategic and sustainable.

If elected, I look forward to this opportunity to serve ALA and to learn more about sustainability initiatives from a broader perspective. I will be happy to share information about our efforts in New York State, and grateful to learn from my colleagues in other parts of the country. I can assure you that I will be a contributing member of the group and will enthusiastically tackle whatever comes my way. I’m  happy to answer questions about the NYLA Sustainability Initiative and I invite people to contact me at

Meet Naomi Clewett, Candidate for Treasurer of SustainRT!

Greetings SustainRT members!

My name is Naomi Clewett and I am a candidate for SustainRT Treasurer. Over the past few years I have enjoyed participating in the SustainRT community virtually through the listserv. I’ve appreciated the great resources that have been shared, and have benefited from members’ helpful responses to my queries about establishing a monarch waystation at my library and seeking a healthier receipt paper option. (On that note, Appvion has product called “Alpha Free” that uses Vitamin C instead of BPA or BPS. The print is lighter than conventional thermal receipt paper, but if your community will tolerate that you might want to check it out.)

As a member of the nominating committee for this election cycle I was aware that no one had sought the role of Treasurer close to the deadline, so I put myself forward. I was pleased to discover that we have a great candidate in Lindsay Marlow.  I will be voting for Lindsay and urge you to as well!

Meet Amy Brunvand, Candidate for Coordinator Elect of SustainRT!

The amplification of our lives by technology grants us a power over the natural world which we can no longer afford to use.  In everything we do we must be mindful of the lives of others, cautions, constrained, meticulous. We may no longer live as if there were no tomorrow.   –George Monbiot

Amy BrunvandHi, my name is Amy Brunvand and I’m running for Coordinator Elect of SustainRT.

I’m an academic librarian at the University of Utah where I’m a government information specialist and the librarian liaison for programs in Environmental & Sustainability Studies and Environmental Humanities.  Like Art Dog, I lead a secret double life — Librarian by day, writer (and sometimes tango dancer) by night.

How did you become interested in libraries and sustainability?

Back in 1992 I read Bill McKibben’s The Age of Missing Information and wrote a largely un-read op-ed for Colorado Libraries magazine about preserving hyper-local information in the interest of what, at the time, was not yet called sustainability. I was also inspired by Wendell Berry’s ideas about the importance of place and the do-it-yourself ethos of “Whole Earth Review” (before it became obsessed with computer technology). To me, the essential link between libraries and sustainability is community engagement, and I recently co-authored an article about using government information to inform sustainability. Since 2001 I have written a monthly environmental news column for Catalyst magazine. My goal is to connect the dots between local issues, public policy and citizen groups. Through this writing I realized that the library is an ideal place to nurture ecologically literate, engaged citizenship, so a few years ago I jumped at an opportunity to change my liaison work from math/computer science to environment/sustainability studies.

What motivated you to run for Coordinator Elect of SustainRT?

Frankly, alternatives to sustainability are pretty scary. I feel a sense of urgency about the state of the world and I’d like an excuse to spend more time working on sustainability issues. There is a lot of synergy between the Big Ideas of Sustainability and the Core Values of Librarianship, and we librarians are in a great position to facilitate the transition to more sustainable and resilient future. Opportunities to promote sustainability exist in all areas of librarianship, not just green buildings. For instance, I’ve noticed that articles about whether eBooks or print books are more sustainable nearly always point out that borrowing library books is the most sustainable choice. Richard Louv suggests that libraries could be “naturebraries” that serve as hubs of bioregional knowledge. Another crucial role for libraries is enabling patrons to make a difference since change usually comes from the grassroots up; as Wendell Berry says, “The “leaders” will have to be led.”

How do you see the role of SustainRT?

SustainRT is the Jiminy Cricket of ALA, a little voice that keeps insisting sustainability is important. We are off to a great start and I’d like to keep the energy high. I hope we will develop our sense of community, maybe working with the Outreach Chair to host an online reading group, or a question-of-the-month discussion. Besides webinars and conference programs, SustainRT should be an incubator for practical ideas.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Sustainability can be fun!  Here’s an example of a student project I love: MovingU aims to reduce air pollution by encouraging alternative transportation choices.  As part of the project students gathered personal stories about air quality (I’m flattered that they picked a story I wrote). The library helped with information, tech support, promotion and archiving but students are the ones driving this project.


Amy Brunvand (1992) “Resource Sharing and the Importance of Place.” Colorado Libraries, 18 (2), pp. 22-24.

Amy Brunvand & Ambra Gagliardi(2015) “Sustainability, Relocalization, Citizen Activism and Government Information.”  Dttp: Documents to the People, 43(2), pp..10-13.

Richard Louv (2008) Last child in the woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.

George Monbiot (2014) Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life.

Bill McKibben (1992) The Age of Missing Information.