SustainRT Travel Award Winner 2019

SustainRT Travel Award Winner 2019

SustainRT would like to congratulate Jessica Krieter, winner of this year’s SustainRT Travel Award!

Jessica Krieter grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and attended Elmhurst College for a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. While studying at Elmhurst, she began working as a Kids Technology Assistant at the Elmhurst Public Library (Elmhurst, IL) and quickly found a passion for children’s library services. She now also works as a Youth Programs Specialist at Arlington Heights Memorial Library (Arlington Heights, IL), and serves as a trustee on the board of the Franklin Park Public Library District (Franklin Park, IL).

The winner of the SustainRT Travel Award receives $500 to offset the cost of attending the ALA conference in June 2019. Jessica’s winning blog post is below.

Librarians as the Original Sustainability Advocates

Libraries are, in a certain way, the original advocates for sustainability. We purchase a few items for many to share, increasing accessibility and reducing resource use and waste. Libraries are a formalized expression of this enduring practice.

We also hold a distinct position in society that necessitates our responsiveness to the issues facing our populations. As a place where information, learning, resources, and community intersect, libraries hold the responsibility to provide accessible education on sustainability. To serve our patrons’ specific needs, though, we must insist on our individual communities guiding our efforts: what resources will best serve our patrons? Are there local groups and businesses that could be valuable partners? How can we, as a library, adopt more sustainable practices? Answering these questions calls for a library-wide, explicit, and intentional commitment to sustainability.

Discussion on sustainability tends to be associated only with the largest, most visible efforts for it. Libraries are seldom part of the conversation, and that is a costly disservice to our patrons. Because we are deeply rooted places of learning and engagement, we are uniquely positioned to bolster the future impact of sustainability in our communities.

Libraries are already pioneers of the “access over ownership” concept, and it is increasingly evident in our collections: more libraries are checking out “things,” including games, electronics, kitchen appliances, bakeware, and tools. Consider the difference in waste produced by one of these items, purchased by a library for hundreds to share, compared to the waste that would be produced if interested patrons each purchased that item. We already employ our systems to facilitate cooperative sharing of resources, and we can expand our efforts by developing these collections further.   

Libraries must also consider our role as education centers. Sustainability is a broad and sometimes ambiguous term, making it difficult or daunting for many to understand. That’s where we step in, with sustainability-focused programming, resources, and staff. As a Youth Programs Specialist, I always consider the effect we can bring forth in future generations, and the topic of sustainability becomes especially significant in this light. If we are committed to serving our youth, we are committed to helping them understand their world – the past, present, and future of it. Sustainability plays a key role in the issues their generation will face. Developing programs on sustainability is a necessary component in offering relevant learning experiences, and we can also apply the same mindset to our offerings for patrons of any age. One of our most important capacities for sustainability is providing easily reachable information and education, for all members of our community.

Regardless of location or size, the key factor in successful sustainability efforts is our dedication to our patrons. By constructing our sustainability efforts according to our patrons’ needs, we are making sustainable living accessible and advocating for the sustainability measures important to our populations. We are positioned to become a powerful factor in the sustainability movement, and we can strengthen our communities in the process.

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