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).

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:

Announcing the SustainRT Travel Award!

SustainRT will grant a $500 Travel Award to one individual for the purpose of attending ALA Annual 2017. The award will come in the form of a reimbursement and may be applied to travel, lodging or conference registration expenses. The theme for this year’s award is “Green is the new Black.” Applicants are invited to submit a 60 second (or less) video explaining how libraries can empower their customers and communities toward a greener, more sustainable future. Creativity is encouraged! To qualify, applicants must be SustainRT members.* The deadline for submissions is 11:59 PM on March 15, 2017. The Travel Award committee will select the top three videos and post them to the SustainRT Facebook page by March 22, 2017. The video to receive the most “likes” by 11:59 PM on March 31, 2017 will win the $500 Travel Award (in the event of a tie, the Travel Award judges determine the winner). The winner of the Travel Award will be announced on the SustainRT blog ( on April 1, 2017.

To submit your video, go here:

*Not a SustainRT member? Join now! Log into your ALA Connect account and add us to your ALA membership. It’s only $10 to join!

A letter from the SustainRT Board

Dear Library Community,

Now more than ever, the American Library Association’s Sustainability Round Table stands firmly in our profession’s core values, many of which serve to protect our planet. The Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) was established for the exchange of sustainability ideas and opportunities in order to move toward a more equitable, healthy and economically viable society.

Considering the climate change denial of the key members of the new administration, we will double down on our commitment to shape the library profession’s sustainable practices, policies and programming to strengthen democracy, diversity, education and lifelong learning, and social responsibility. Libraries provide vital places, brave spaces, services and resources to build community resilience as we all face an uncertain future together.

The 2015 American Library Association (ALA) Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries reminds us of “the important and unique role libraries play in wider community conversations about resiliency, climate change, and a sustainable future.” To that end, we welcome Bill McKibben, a world renowned climate change leader, as a keynote speaker at the ALA Annual 2017 Conference. McKibben’s address is made possible through our co-sponsorship with ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table, the American Indian Library Association and the Asian Pacific American Library Association.

We are deeply concerned about climate change and its drastic impact on people, wildlife, coastlines, weather patterns, ocean currents, and food production. While our list is long, it is not all inclusive and some of the most severe impacts could be ones we have not yet thought to measure or predict. There are pressing actions you can take now.

Please call and write your representatives to protest the nomination of cabinet members who threaten to harm our nation’s public lands, people and environment. To find your representative visit:

The coming years provide an opportunity to mobilize and work together for social equity, proper stewardship of the earth, and sustainable economic growth. Come what may, SustainRT stands resolved on the importance of sustainable libraries and will uphold these values.

Add the Sustainability Round Table to your ALA membership and join us as we clear a path toward climate justice!

The SustainRT Board:

Rene M. Tanner, Coordinator
Jodi Shaw, Coordinator-Elect
Madeleine Charney, Immediate Past Coordinator
Kate Foster Hutchens, Secretary
Lindsay L. Marlow, Treasurer
Mary Beth Lock, Member-at-Large
Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Member-at-Large

ALA Annual 2017 Speaker!

We are excited to announce that Bill McKibben will be a featured speaker at ALA Annual 2017!

Bill McKibben is co-founder and Senior Advisor at, an international, grass roots climate movement that leverages people power to develop people-centric solutions to the climate crisis. McKibben is a prolific writer and opened the general public’s eyes to the urgency of climate change back in 1989 with his book The End of Nature, which has been published worldwide in over 24 languages. Among his many related books are Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age; Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet; Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families; and Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living Lightly on the Earth.

McKibben suggests that we conceptualize climate change as a threat on the order of World War III and respond accordingly. With this mindset we can make societal shifts similar to those experienced in the 1940’s wartime era and move to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage. There is urgency to his message as climate change is happening more quickly than scientists anticipated. McKibben argues that the status quo is a luxury we cannot afford. The nonviolent war that McKibben proposes will save lives and has the potential to produce millions of jobs.

His address is made possible through the partnership of SustainRT, ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table, the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association, and the American Indian Library Association. We are honored and fortunate to have Mr. McKibben join us at ALA Annual to bring us his insights into the role of libraries during a time of climate change.

Date, time, and location of McKibben’s featured address at ALA annual in Chicago are forthcoming.

To help us bring this important program to ALA and support our ongoing work, please consider making a donation to ALA’s Sustainability Roundtable (SustainRT). The instructions to ensure it gets to SustainRT are below. Thank you for anything you can contribute!

To Make a Donation

Online donations are accepted at the Donate to ALA website. Select ALA Roundtables and choose SustainRT for your donation.

If you prefer to mail your donation, please fill out the online form, print it out, and send a check, payable to ALA at:

American Library Association
Development Office
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611

The American Library Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit institution. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Our federal tax identification number is 36-2166947.

SustainRT Election Results!

The election results are in, and we’d like to congratulate the following:

  • Jodi Shaw – Coordinator-Elect (three year term)
  • Rebekkah Smith Aldrich – Member-at-Large (one year term)
  • Mary Beth Lock – Member-at-Large (two year term)
  • Lindsay L. Marlow – Treasurer (two year term)
  • Kate Hutchens – Secretary (two year term)

To all of our candidates, thank you for your interest and your dedication to the Sustainability Round Table!.  To our elected officials, thank you in advance for the time and energy that you will devote to our Round Table during your terms. To our SustainRT members, thank you for voting!