Call for SustainRT Coordinating Council Candidates, 2020

Are you passionate about sustainability in libraries? Are you looking for a leadership opportunity? If you answered “yes” to both questions, consider running for SustainRT Coordinating Council! We are looking for SustainRT Coordinating Council candidates for the following positions: coordinator-elect, secretary, treasurer, and member-at-large. Officer position descriptions are in the SustainRT bylaws. You can read below what the Coordinating Council is proposing at Officer position descriptions *Draft Revision*.

Candidates must be ALA and SustainRT personal members in good standing. Not a member? Go to the ALA membership page to join or renew!

If you want to know more about these positions or if you want to nominate yourself, please contact Tina Chan ( by November 20, 2019.

From Officer position descriptions *Draft Revision*:

Coordinator-Elect (Term: 3 years – coordinator-elect, coordinator, immediate past coordinator) Serves as Liaison from the Board for a SustainRT committee, reporting activities and updates at each board meeting, appoints committee chairs for the next Board year. Works with ALA Liaison to update Board listserv for coming year, updates org chart for coming year. Conference attendance: Attend ALA Annual, and preferably attend ALA Midwinter.

Secretary (Term: 2 years) Records meeting minutes, submits for edits and posts to Connect within one week of each meeting. Conference attendance: Attend ALA Annual and ALA Midwinter. Treasurer (Term: 2 years) Serves as Liaison from the Board to the Membership Committee, reporting activities and updates at each board meeting. Conference attendance: Attend ALA Annual and ALA Midwinter.

Member-at-large (Term: 2 years) Serves as Liaison from the Board for a SustainRT committee, reporting activities and updates at each board meeting. Conference attendance: Attend ALA Annual or ALA Midwinter.

Webinar Opportunity! Growing Communities Together: Libraries and Gardens

Join SustainRT Online Education Committee for an encore presentation from the 2019 ALA conference.

Growing Communities Together: Libraries and Gardens

Time: October 3, 2019, 1-2pm CST

Presenters: Kathy McKay, Pete Villasenor, Meg Wilson, Carrie Banks

Register, at:

Description: Curious about the green things outside the library’s windows? Or are you craving green things outside the library’s windows? Find out more about how libraries are are embracing gardens. Are you interested in LEED certification or just making your library more sustainable? Does your local food pantry need fresh produce? Are the children in the children’s room getting antsy? Are your teens bored? Does your ESL class need a focus? Do your students need a break? Or a hands-on science activity? Gardens are the answer. Learn from model programs around the country. Hear from Peter Villasenor, Branch Manager at Oakland Public Library’s Cesar Chavez Branch, about their bilingual seed library and container garden. Explore the National Library of Medicine’s healing garden with the Master Gardener who tends it. Discover the 17 indoor gardens of the Gwinnett County Public Library, you will be amazed by their harvests. Take home your very own seeds to get you started on your own garden. Remember when you have a library and a garden, you have everything you need!

Update from the SustianRT Coordinator

It is with much relief and hopeful anticipation for the year ahead that we report  SustainRT is once again sustainably staffed! After a tumultuous winter and early spring (marked by multiple leadership departures), a successful spring election and a period of intense committee volunteer recruitment resulted in a re-energized SustainRT Board and six fully staffed committees. We are especially delighted to report that SustainRT finally reached the membership threshold in 2018 (membership equivalent to at least 1% of personal ALA memberships) that qualified us to elect our first dedicated ALA Councilor in Spring 2019.

In spite of the administrative shakeup of the past year, good things did happen with SustainRT this past year. The Membership Committee, with the help of SustainRT’s first LIS intern, launched a mentoring program in late Spring 2019. The Online Education and Programming Committees launched multiple virtual and in-person educational opportunities. The Booklist Committee launched the first, annual SustainRT “Top 10” list of recommended books for children about the environment, playing in nature, gardening, and more, and the Environmental Scan Taskforce launched the Sustainable Libraries Database in  Zotero (submissions are always welcomed). The Governance Committee, with the help of SRRT’s Al Kagan, worked to help ALA Endowment Trustees consider the advantages to more ESG investments for the ALA endowment and took the lead on the ALA 2019 Annual SustainRT Chair’s program on carbon offsets for travel.

If you are interested in the work of SustainRT, please join us in the year ahead!

SustainRT Coordinator


Uta Hussong-Christian
Associate Professor  | Science Librarian
Oregon State University

Join SustainRT’s nominating committee!

Hello SustainRT members,

Do you want to be involved with SustainRT? Were you involved in the past and want to contribute again? If so, consider joining SustainRT’s nominating committee! We seek members who will recruit our next board members. With your help, we will recruit for a coordinator elect, member-at-large, treasurer, and secretary. The time commitment to be part of the nominating committee will be from September-early December 2019.

Please let me know by September 10 if interested in joining the nominating committee or if you have questions.

Tina Chan
SustainRT Member-at-Large

Benefits of Sustainability on a Small Scale

By Kayla Kuni

Libraries are the perfect place to have sustainability discussions since libraries are known for providing educational opportunities. At my former public library, we hosted films that focused on environmentalism followed by community discussion. The library then began hosting a weekly organic farmer’s market (which continues to this day) to better inform local residents about the concept of eating locally and eating with the seasons. I heard several customers ask why they could not buy a tomato from local farmers, but they could get one from Winn Dixie. Our local farmers could then educate our residents about how far that tomato had to travel to arrive at Winn Dixie and how the transportation process of said tomato was actually leaving a huge ecological impact on the environment. The library’s collection provided further evidence for the patron to read in order to confirm what they had learned at the market.

As structures, libraries are being designed with sustainability in mind. The green report cards issued by San Francisco Public Library are inspiring. The report cards take into account the LEED standards of “sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality” (“Green Report Cards,” 2019, para. 2). While the budget for San Francisco Public Libraries is relatively high compared to others, and some may feel that LEED standards are expensive to implement, there are design decisions that come into play when a library building is renovated.

The topic of paper usage (Hitchcock & Willard, 2015, p. 39) is one that is very interesting since libraries tend to print a lot in lieu of storing information on something like a digitized spreadsheet. In some ways libraries are very behind with the times in that certain policies require printed records to be retained. That being said, libraries are often on the cutting edge of digitizing resources. Perhaps librarians can be bigger advocates for change in how we envision records to be retained in the future and why they feel that changes need to be made. The cost of the paper, and the ink for printing, is very high, but what truly alarms me is that so much time is wasted in dealing with paper (Hitchcock & Willard, 2015, p. 39). Hitchcock & Willard’s (2015) suggestion that productivity is lost, resources are wasted, and nothing additional is added to the company’s value, should make any organization consider going paper free.

The topic of sustainability and libraries is one that I have a great deal of interest in. In 2017, I returned to school in order to work on an MBA with an emphasis in sustainable businesses. At the American Library Association Midwinter meeting this past January in Seattle, the ALA Council (of which I am an elected member) voted to include “sustainability” as a core value in librarianship (ALA, 2019). If we are truly passionate about it, we need to have conversations about what sustainability is and what behaviors we need to change to become more sustainable.


American Library Association. (2019, January 29). ALA adds sustainability to core values. Retrieved from

“Green Report Cards.” (2019). San Francisco Public Library. Retrieved from

Hitchcock, D. & Willard, M. (2015). The business guide to sustainability: Practical strategies and tools for organizations (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Kayla Kuni is a librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Prior to working for PHSC, Kayla worked in a public library for over six years. In both academic and public libraries, Kayla has taught future business owners how to access resources that will help grow small businesses. In 2017, she was named the Outstanding Public Servant by the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce for her work with the community. Kayla is pursuing an MBA, with an emphasis on sustainability, from the University of South Florida.

Getting Unstuck So You Can “Get Sustainability Done”

By David Seldon

I am a seasoned librarian but a relatively new member of ALA and the Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT). In fact, the joining the SustainRT was the main reason I joined ALA. The size of the Association and large number of active, intelligent, and motivated members of SustainRT is impressive. Joining the Round Table made me feel immediately welcome and empowered. I jumped right in and joined the Governance Committee and started work on important projects like ALA endowment divestment from fossil fuels and participating in adding sustainability to ALA’s core values – rubbing elbows with Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Uta Hussong-Christian and other remarkable librarians. Wow!

It didn’t take long for me to learn about the wide range of expertise on sustainability issues within SustainRT. As the former chair of American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Standing Committee on Environmental Sustainability, I had felt fairly isolated when working on sustainability issues. But that feeling of isolation changed when I joined ALA and the SustainRT. There are so many ways to become active and to learn from my new colleagues and to make a difference for the environment and our health, safety and well-being.

Besides working on big issues within ALA, I think the biggest value of being a member of the SustainRT is having access to all of the knowledge and support of the collective group. Often times we get stuck when trying to implement positive change within our own organizations. We might struggle with how to go about getting an energy/eco audit of our buildings to develop a baseline on energy use and greenhouse gases, or we may have difficulty deciding how to talk with management about starting an organization-wide “green committee.” The Round Table forum, webinar events, conference programs and the developing mentorship program are available to us to help us learn from each other to get unstuck and “get sustainability done.” We are here to help each other so don’t hesitate to ask for help, join a committee, participate in a webinar or conference program or just lurk on the forum.

David Selden is a member of the SustainRT Governance Committee and was a panel speaker for the “Carbon Offsets for Sustainability: Why, Where , How,” presented Sunday, June 23, 2019 at ALA Annual.

How Can Libraries Support Sustainability Efforts?

By Raymond Pun

This short video covers how to integrate information literacy and library resources to support campus sustainability research for STEM programs.

Raymond Pun is the Instruction/Research Librarian at Alder Graduate School of Education. Along with Dr. Gary Shaffer, he is the co-editor of the upcoming volume, The Sustainable Library’s Cookbook (ACRL Publications, Fall 2019) featuring over 40 contributions from academic librarians, teaching faculty and students on best practices and case studies to promote sustainability initiatives, activities and values in the academic library workplace. 

Libraries and Sustainability

By Mary Beth Lock

Libraries have always been intrinsically connected to sustainability to me. I remember in my formative years finding that libraries were the great equalizer, eliminating barriers to access for people from all walks of life. One of my earliest memories in fact, is feeling literally empowered by receiving my first library card.  I was 6 years old, and suddenly, the entirety of my (now I recognize admittedly little) branch library was available to me. While I spent many an hour in the early reader’s chapter book section pursing Amelia Bedelia, Ramona and Nancy Drew, gleefully checking out what I could carry to read in the next few weeks, I recognized the inherent goodness and rightness that is embedded in such an institution whose very purpose is to share.  That became the basis of my lifelong love of libraries.

Now we have much changed society: one that is both more and less connected to each other, and certainly one that is more online. The value of that branch library may have less significance for today’s first graders as simply a place to find books. But it continues to fill niches for people from across the spectrum of users. Job searchers, and community organizers, and e- and paper book readers all can find reasons to utilize the library.  That foundational “sharing” ethic continues to be valued. But while it was once only the library’s duty to share, businesses have adopted the sharing ethic as well. With ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft; lodging opportunities like Couchsurfing and VRBO; car sharing, like Zipcar, many are recognizing the power of sharing instead of buying. And as we share what we have, we gain abundance. Sharing also has the added bonus of being easier on the environment because less stuff needs to be made. As the three pillars of Sustainability includes the social, the economic and the environmental, I recognize how libraries fulfill all three. The library provides a place to welcome all members of society. They fill the economic gap that divides some people from the information and resources they need. They are good stewards of the limited resources of our earth by allowing for easy sharing of the services and materials they have.  It is why my librarianship and my sustainability ethos are so closely aligned. We, none of us, own what we have. We are just the temporary borrowers of things. To paraphrase Chief Seattle, we borrow all we see from our grandchildren. Libraries of all sorts embody, manifest, and exemplify that position.

Mary Beth Lock is Assistant Dean and Director of Access Services in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University. She is a founding member of SustainRT and served on the board as a Member-at-Large from 2015-2017. She has published articles and chapters on sustainability, service models, and entrepreneurship in libraries.

Liaison Perspectives on Sustainability

Blog Post by Kristen Mastel

The concept of sustainability is gaining ground within the library community, as we have seen with the adoption of “sustainability” as a core value of librarianship this past year. While this is a great start to bring this to the forefront of our profession, we need to ask what are we working towards, not just simply working on regarding sustainability in our libraries, community, and beyond.

As the liaison to the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, I have seen how they have crafted a strategic plan with a mission of both people and planet prospering together. This aligns with the concept of the triple bottom line “where organizations must be economically prosperous, promote environmental quality, and be champions of social justice in order to be sustainable,” according to John Elkington. How could libraries work together towards this goal?

As an outreach and instruction librarian, I will highlight some of the efforts we have undertaken at my institution, as I work on programmatic outreach planning rather than merely a collection of activities related to sustainability.

Since the beginning, libraries have implicitly had sustainability as a core value – if we look at one of our main services is to circulate books and materials to the public. In addition to providing books at pop-up libraries at our campus and community farmers’ markets, we also table and provide activities, such as button making with discarded magazines, at various sustainability programs and events. These efforts not only increase awareness of the Libraries resources and services but serve as an environmental model of reuse and repurpose.

A core area where our university is trying to foster change is around social justice issues related to food systems. The library is a key partner with faculty focused around food access and food desert research as we provide in-depth research assistance through research sprints. In addition, the Libraries are a central player in reducing student costs by finding open educational resources and library-licensed materials for course readings. Another core outreach effort is to review the STARS report, which gives great insight into courses that discuss sustainability and support resources for outreach.

At a micro-level, we acknowledge that our student workers are often forced to make difficult choices with their finances, such as either purchasing a textbook or healthy eating. However, we recognize we can do more by addressing living wage issues as well. We want to empower our students and staff to support their own health by growing their own food. We have six circulating gardening kits and provide seeds at the campus garden plot lottery. These coordinated efforts ensure that the library is viewed as a central player in the community around sustainability. Therefore, the library can be a safe space where complex discussions around climate change can happen, as the campus works to balance corporate financial support and sustainability and tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in order to ensure that people and the planet can prosper together.

Use Data to Empower Your Community

Travel Award Runner up submission post!

Use Data to Empower Your Community by Mary Bakija

The amount of water that rushed into Brooklyn Public Library’s Coney Island branch during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 is hard to imagine, but photos taken soon after the storm show its power — books strewn across floors that had yet to completely drain, chairs and tables toppled. Six branches in that system lost more than 75,000 books, magazines, and DVDs, and repairs cost around $10 million. Coney Island Library finally reopened about a year later, but it’s still in the same location, still vulnerable to future storms.

Sandy is a powerful example of why sustainability planning must be linked to libraries of all kinds, and in all parts of the country where a variety of climate issues may have an impact. Immediately following Sandy, New York City government discussed options and began plans to protect the city from storms and rising sea levels. But now, nearly seven years later, talk has faded to the background, little work has been done, and cultural institutions like Coney Island Library remain susceptible to harm. But there are ways those institutions can empower local communities that rely on them to help push for change.

Because also since Sandy, there’s been a growing call for open access to government data, and cities like New York have created websites where the public can view and download datasets. (Some cities have even arranged to have their libraries host that data, but that’s a subject for another blog post.) Though data should always be approached critically, with ample consideration to what’s missing and how and why they were collected, there are opportunities for communities to use this kind of information to communicate ideas and motivate action. And libraries can help show them how.

For some, hearing about the impacts of climate change may not be as powerful as seeing it visualized. Data visualizations like the one shown above, which uses NYC datasets to show some of the cultural heritage institutions that may face challenges as sea levels are predicted to rise, can help tell sustainability stories in new ways. Showing people how to create those visualizations provides an opportunity for empowerment. When your community learns to use available data to illustrate libraries at risk as the climate changes, for instance, they may feel more of an ownership stake, and may be more likely to advocate for change. And if you can show them how they can contact their local representatives to share their work, that’s a chance for the data they’ve visualized to illustrate a need for legislation and other actions that can help ensure their communities are sustainable.

If data literacy is one pathway to protecting our communities from these potential events, creating programs that strengthen the public’s understanding and use of public data is important now more than ever. By offering examples or training for librarians on how to they can build public data visualization programs for their communities, SunstainRT can help empower those communities. It’s a small action that can help make a big difference.

Mary Bakija is an MLIS student at Pratt Institute, where she also serves as the President of the school’s ALA student chapter. This fall, she will begin a fellowship at the Frick Art Reference Library working with the web archiving team for the New York Art Resources Consortium.