On behalf of the SustainRT Board, it is our pleasure to congratulate the winners of the SustainRT elections. Beginning after the 2019 ALA Annual Conference, Arlene Hopkins will join the Board as a Member-at-Large, Casey Conlin will join the Board as Coordinator-elect, and Matthew Bollerman will join the Board as SustainRT’s first dedicated ALA Councilor.
We wish to express our appreciation to these individuals for their commitment to this group, and what it represents, by taking on part of the work of keeping SustainRT moving forward.
The Sustainability Round Table will offer a $500 travel award to reimburse* a SustainRT member who attends the ALA conference in June 2019. Applicants should submit a blog post (500 word limit) or a video (2 minutes or less in duration) about the connection between sustainability and libraries. Submissions may be creative and should explore the applicant’s unique vision.
The requirements for the award winner are that they must:
Be a current SustainRT member. (Current SustainRT board members and Outreach Committee members are not eligible.)
Agree to write a short (250-500 words) blog post (link to our blog) about their experience attending ALA and/or how they think that the Sustainability Round Table can encourage and support library workers who wish to promote sustainability in their libraries and communities.
Entries are due by April 26, 2019. The winners will be notified in May and announced at the member meeting at ALA Annual. The winning submission will also be posted on the SustainRT Blog and other SustainRT social media. All entries will be considered for publication.
Libraries and librarians in communities, schools, colleges, universities, offices, hospitals, and anywhere else you might find them, stand poised to help the people they serve move toward a more sustainable future. Our work in SustainRT pulls these librarians together so that we can figure out how.
For the past 4 years, I’ve been working with the Sustainability Initiative of the New York Library Association to define what sustainability looks like in libraries, and to create the Sustainable Library Certification Program, a set of tools to help librarians make their organizations and their communities not only sustainable, but resilient places where people can thrive. Our work uses the triple bottom line (socially equitable, economically feasible, and environmentally sound) to measure and increase the sustainability of library services and programs, and to help libraries and librarians take the role of leading sustainable practices in their communities. The Sustainable Library Certification is the product of many people in the NYLA Sustainability Initiative pulling together to contribute their skills to create something bigger than they could make on their own, and I’m proud to say we now have libraries completing the program.
As Coordinator for SustainRT, I want to bring the people in our group together to tap into the extraordinary capabilities of focused librarians to create resources and opportunities for libraries to help the people and organizations they serve create a sustainable future.
I am very interested in being the SustainRT Councilor. I was an inaugural member of this Roundtable as Secretary. It was exciting to be part of something new and I believe we set some excellent groundwork for the activities that have been evolving. Sustainability is an issue that I have championed for years. Back in New York, I co-chaired the Sustainability Initiative Committee of the New York Library Association (https://www.nyla.org/sustainability/). It was a joy to watch colleagues from around the state build their capacity and embrace their role to help their communities by using the Triple Bottom Line.
I would welcome the opportunity to serve my profession as a councilor again. My first councilor experience came as the President of the Public Library Section of the New York Library Association. I enjoyed serving in this capability, particularly working to improve our association and acting as a voice for those you represent. After serving in this capacity, I was elected as President of the New York Library Association and headed their Council. During my tenure, I led the team to find a new Executive Director. This was not certainly not something I thought would happen on my watch, but it was a great process and our ED is still on the job and going strong.
My day job is being the Chief Executive Officer of the Hauppauge Public Library, a suburban library in Suffolk County, New York. We are currently enrolled in the Sustainable Library Certification Program offered by the New York Library Association.
If elected, I hope to help the roundtable have a full voice at Council and to do all in my power to increase membership and make sure our issues are heard throughout the organization especially in light of the Final Report of the ALA Special Task Force on Sustainability.
The primary concerns of sustainability – environmental, economic and social justice and equality are not just a preference but an absolute necessity for the survival of our communities, whether it’s local, nationally and/or globally. We need to find a way to effectively communicate this to all the stakeholders in our communities, starting with our library community (e.g. staff, Boards, whole systems, etc.) so that we can take a leadership role in helping to make our entire citizenry lead sustainable lives. In my personal life I have been actively involved in supporting remedying environmental and social concerns. I am an active member of the NYLA Sustainability Initiative (now a Round Table) as well as spearheading and co-chairing a local initiative modeled on NYLA’s. My motivation for the Member at Large is to become more involved at the national level. The concerns mentioned above are expanding and the urgency growing by the day. In any of these initiatives, forming partnerships is key. And after attending the Drawdown Project at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, where Paul Hawkins, the editor and one of the prime movers of the Drawdown initiative, was the keynote speaker, I was truly inspired and convinced that this is a national and global effort. This is an effort to form those partnerships at broader level.
Serving on the SustainRT board as a Member-at-Large will enable me to bring 30+ years of experience as an educator, architect and library planner to comprehensive sustainability and resilience in library planning, programs, collections and facilities. Friends and I have created a Facebook page “Cultivating Urban Resilience – Next Gen Libraries.”
The Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) 2018 was held in San Francisco from September 12 – 15, 2018. GCAS was an international summit to convene meetings to discuss, explore, share and collaboration with different states, regions, cities, companies, stakeholders on climate action. In addition, affiliated events were also held all week throughout the Bay Area.
Sustainability Round Table members Ray Pun and Heather Christenson attended an affiliate event called Climate Heritage Mobilization (CHM) held at the California Historical Society. This one day conference was organized by the “California Office of Historic Preservation in conjunction with national and international partners. The event’s purpose is to mobilize the cultural heritage and historic preservation sectors for climate action in support of the Paris Agreement.” In this blog post, they will reflect on their experiences attending the CHM.
The Climate Heritage Mobilization gathered over 100 committed people from a wide variety of disciplines to take on the weighty topic of identifying the intersection of cultural heritage and climate change. We were challenged to consider — what are the needs of climate action? What are each of us good at? I was pleased to attend the meeting as member of SustainRT and represent the library perspective.
Andrew Potts, Co-Chair of the ICOMOS Climate Change & Heritage Working Group, began the meeting with a comment on the value of having a “cultural heritage meeting at a climate conference, rather than climate meeting at a cultural heritage conference.” A key theme in the many presentations and panels throughout the day was that, ultimately, the solution to climate change will be a social and cultural one as much as a scientific one. Many of the presenters provided very specific cultural perspectives, and in aggregate these perspectives formed an encouraging kaleidoscope of possibilities and examples. A takeaway here is that no one size fits all, the local community knows best and needs to be involved, and at this critical moment, all solutions should be on the table.
One remarkable panel showcasing “Heritage as a Vector for Climate Action, Justice, and Research” featured speakers that included Queen Quet of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, a Sr. Climate Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Alison Tickell of Julie’s Bicycle, and Saúl Vicente Vásquez who coordinates community efforts with the FAO in Oaxaca Mexico. Queen Quet challenged the group to consider wide cultural inclusion to work effectively together, pointing out that even our social, talkative, lunch at a restaurant represented a cultural norm not shared by all. Dr. Ekwurzel described artifacts being revealed by the retreat of Arctic ice, and how “archaeology can’t happen fast enough – how can you even prioritize?” Mr Vasquez described how culture can be a key component of food security and how ”food sovereignty” based on local wisdom rather than an industrial model was achieved by his community. Alison Tickell described how her organization funds strategic integration of climate change as a theme in the arts, in order to normalize climate change and integrate it into mainstream culture.
Another standout presentation was from Oscar Guevara, Climate Change Adaptation Specialist for WWF-Colombia. He urged us to focus on articulating value relative to climate change, his example being that the rainforest he oversees was initially valued and set aside as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its extreme biodiversity, but times changed and now when he speaks about the rainforest’s value, he focuses on how much carbon it captures. He described how “conservation” is no longer a viable term and we need to now think instead in terms of facilitating transformation and enhancing resilience. Another point he made that resonated with me was “ [current] legal frameworks are not designed for adaptive management –they are designed for a fixed situation.”
Localization and community involvement in solutions was a common theme, and speakers described how direct experiences with the effects of climate change have resulted in increased political and social action. For example, Daniel Zarrilli, Senior Director of Climate Policy and Programs for the City of New York, described how in 2012 Hurricane Sandy was a turning point for the city in addressing climate change. “What actually changed was…reality! It is now not in the future,” he said emphatically.
I was impressed with the diversity and scope of subject matter presented at this meeting, and with the intelligence and enthusiasm of all the speakers. At the group lunch, connections were made as conversations turned to people’s children and to commiseration over the feelings generated by the daunting topic.
If nothing else, awareness of the number and variety of actions being taken, and many people involved across disciplines is heartening. I would encourage my colleagues to seek out cross-disciplinary meetings such as this one, if possible, and forge connections outside of the library sphere. Our wisdom as stewards of our collections, and long view of preservation, format migration, and availability of resources over time should be shared more widely. Libraries are also at the center of community, and we as librarians also have wisdom to share regarding frameworks of community support and engagement.
CHM was a great opportunity to explore and learn from politicians, policymakers, conservators, academics, architects, librarians, activists, preservationists, and scientists were working collectively on to address how climate change affects cultural heritage. I attended this conference on behalf of IFLA (International Federation of Libraries Associations and Institutions) to identify opportunities for future partnerships on how libraries can support and preserve cultural heritage collaboratively. Many speakers addressed what is Climate Heritage Mobilization and why does it matter from their perspective?
One presentation that stood out to me was Executive Director Andrea Carmen’s talk on indigenous perspective relating to climate heritage. Carmen is from the Yaqui Nation and International Indian Treaty Council; she presented on the indigenous knowledge of resilience, and the ongoing teaching and learning process that should include indigenous people when addressing climate changes that deeply affect their communities. She shared different examples of how Native Americans have protested and raised concerns of climate change and how to include their rights into international treaties and recognitions.
In addition, there were presentations from mayors around the world including Assisi in Italy and Chefchaouen in Morocco to share how urban planning process in addressing climate change and in support of cultural heritage. During this day-long event, I met with many advocates including museum professionals from International Council of Museums (ICM) who were interested in collaborating with libraries and archives in supporting conservation and preservation approaches to cultural artifacts including books, manuscripts and archival documents. I thoroughly enjoyed the many different talks because this really gave me a multiperspective on of what other professionals are doing. For example what architects are doing or what policymakers are interested in to address climate heritage.
What can and should libraries do? There are definitely ways for our group (Sustainability RT) can consider from liasioning with different organizations and associations to creating more outreach and awareness of climate heritage too. You can also find the discussions on social media, particularly Twitter under #climateheritage for more information about this affiliate event. You can also follow #GCAS2018 to explore other past events too.
Interested in these discussions? Check out these upcoming events and see how you can get involved as well:
Look for the SustainRT poster on Sustainabilty and Diversity at the Diversity and Outreach Fair, Saturday, June 23, 2018 from 3:30pm – 5:00pm on the Exhibits Floor in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
8:30 AM – 10:00 AM
The Rising Tide: How Libraries Sustain a Planet in Crisis
10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
SUSTAINRT: Sustainability Round Table Business and Membership
Throughout the ALA conference there are many programs that address sustainability topics like green buildings, civic engagement, social justice, resilient communities and climate change. Please add a comment if you’d like to call attention to other ALA programs that would be of interest to SustainRT members.
If like me, you are hovering in the dark spaces between Kubler Ross’s bargaining, depression and acceptance, there is some comfort to be had in the words of Elizabeth West, in Abandon All Hope!. West boldly implores us to “abandon all hope that we can make things ‘right’ and give up the fear of what happens next.” I think I have the former part down; it’s the latter I am having trouble with.
There is not one single bolt, nut, knob or straw comprising the foundation of my day-to-day existence that does not depend upon the (collective) assumption that the future will resemble –for the most part– the present.
Many of us in the industrialized world take for granted that we will continue to enjoy all the current “conveniences” civilization offers us. Things like education, health care, prescription drugs, supermarkets, paved roads, phones, cars, buses, email, houses, etc. We assume a continuous, shared belief and agreement in such concepts as law, justice and order, amongst others. At the very least, we assume the basics: food, water, air. Each other. And we march onward, as if.
This assumption is in direct conflict with a dark undercurrent of fear that doggedly gnaws at me daily; I know very well the future does not look like the present.
But because I don’t know what the future will look like, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to prepare, how to get ready, how to survive. I don’t even know if survival is possible. And this not knowing– this is makes me most afraid.
If only we knew what it was to be. Will it be the guillotine or will it be prolonged suffering in a torture chamber of disease and unspeakable violence? Will we starve? Will there be animals? Will there be water? Will there be radiation sickness? Will we be alone? Will we have tribes? Will our children die in front of us? Will we die in front of our children?
All I know is all roads lead to a hard geography, a reality of scope and dimension we cannot fathom. We are truly the walking blind.
Lack of hope is an ugly thing. Surely denial would be better, “a form of fearing and avoiding the truth [that] keeps us from cracking up, giving up. It stands between us and the unbearable.” But once the curtain has been pulled back, once a sightline to the “little man behind the curtain, pulling strings” has been established, returning to the false safety of denial is impossible. It is no stretch to say that the current state of xenophobia racking our world, one in which those seeking refuge from domiciles which do not enjoy the same benefits of civilization that we do are denied entry into ours, whether by walls or by ideology, is an obvious effort to maintain the false safety of denial.
The knowledge that immigration policy means nothing in a world that depends upon civilization for the word “policy” to have meaning, the knowledge that no matter what we do, we will not achieve “long-term security and comfort… economic or racial justice or equality, [we] will not stop the ice sheets from melting or the radioactive Fukushima-spiked water flowing into the sea” is a hard one.
If you feel this way, know that I am with you. Know that like you, I go on pretending. I get up in the morning. I go to work. I put money into my retirement account. I fix up my house. I send and receive emails. I march against injustice. I go to conferences. I write. I worry. And slowly, with the help of a few others, whose bravery and kindness I cannot even begin to convey in words, I grieve. I turn, and I gaze full into the unknown face of the future – I feel, quite palpably, the knowledge that human extinction is a very real and probable outcome. And I hope, as I grieve, I can let go of a “desired end” and “the fear which accompanies any threat to it.”
By releasing all “attempts to control something which is no longer in our hands” I hope to feel the “liberating boldness, permission to live without attachment to outcomes.”
In other words: acceptance.
I am not quite there yet. I am guessing few of us are. In the meantime, we still have each other.
If you are interested in possibly joining me (and others) in an unrecorded, virtual discussion about the existential threats we face, get in touch. My email is jodishaw at mac dot com
And don’t forget you can respond publicly to this post in the comments field.
Jodi Shaw is a librarian and writer living in Massachusetts. She is the Coordinator of the ALA Sustainability Round Table.