Earth Day And Libraries: Investing In Our Planet
Published: April 24, 2023 by Loida Garcia-Febo, Health and Wellness Ambassador
Libraries and library workers are very much involved in preserving our planet. We love Mother Earth and are contributing to climate action and environmental resilience. These are part of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are a call to action to end poverty, improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere, and protect the planet while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. We can all contribute from where we are.
Libraries across the nation have partnered with different organizations and local government to develop a myriad of events to celebrate Earth Day. Here I am sharing some examples to inspire all types of libraries to celebrate Earth Day or year-round celebrations:
The Morris Library at the University of Delaware co-sponsored an Earth Day Mapathon where attendees used their laptops to map buildings in Nigeria to improve flooding preparedness and response. The event was presented by the University of Delaware Information Technologies Department, Geography and Spatial Sciences, and the University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press.
The West Valley Regional Branch Library of Los Angeles Public Library hosted an event about echo-vehicles where participants learned about the engineering design process to build vehicles out of upcycled materials and then they watched a big race.
The library at the Luisa Valderrama Public School in Puerto Rico collaborated with the local town’s Earth Day celebrations featuring four days of storytelling, crafts, and guided tours of a state forest. Free transportation was provided to participants.
The SJSU iSchool is celebrating Earth Day with the event “Earth Day 2023: Sustainability and Libraries” featuring short films and a conversation with librarians leading sustainability efforts. Established in 1970, Earth Day has grown into a global celebration mobilizing 1 billion people every year.
Library associations are supporting a sustainable world by establishing committees to support the role of libraries in preserving our planet.
IFLA’s Environment, Sustainability, and Libraries Section (ENSULIB) definition of what a Green Library is available for downloading in 25 languages. They define a green library as a synonym for a green and sustainable library, which is a library taking into account environmental, economic and social sustainability.
“Green and sustainable libraries may be of any size, but they should have a clear sustainability agenda, which includes green buildings and equipment, green office principles, sustainable economy, sustainable library services, social sustainability, environmental management and commitment to general environmental goals and programmes”
ALA’s Sustainable Round Table, provide resources for collections, programs, and services to help preserve our planet. Students’ membership is free! Its members maintain a library of resources including a booklist of sustainably themed children’s books. Annually, the Round Table recognizes one library that go above and beyond in meeting the wellness needs of their staff with the SustainRT Citation for Wellness in the Workplace, established by Loida Garcia-Febo during her ALA Presidency.
The ALA’s Task Force on the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals created charts featuring academic, public, and school libraries contributions to sustainability. The Task Force created downloadable charts that libraries can customize to show how their programs and services are supporting the SDGs. Additionally, they created bookmarks that libraries can print for their book clubs discussing sustainable development.
Around the globe other library associations such as the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) in the UK have established groups to promote and support green and sustainable libraries.
Librarians are researching ways in which libraries can support development. Nathalice Cardoso conducted the research “Social Responsibility of Library Science in Transforming Society to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” As a result, she developed a calculator to help librarians know how their libraries are contributing to achieve the SDGs. Librarians need to answer a set of questions to receive a score and see how their libraries are doing.
Another result of Cardoso’s research was a checklist for libraries to provide insights into the topic of the SDGs and to encourage more librarians to think about actions and implement them in libraries.
Recently, The Mortenson Center for International Library Programs introduced the concept of an Information Action Brief (IAB) which can be used as a social justice tool to encourage the research community to stretch itself and apply findings of their scholarship to take actions for direct community well-being and sustainability.
Furthermore, as per Albright, Chu, Du, and Mehra in Inspiring Information Communities to Advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals, “An IAB is conceptualized as a multipurpose format that incorporates aspects of a policy statement, research and education approach, strategic action instrument, and social awareness campaign, all rolled into one tool.
I hope we are inspired by how libraries, librarians, and library associations are supporting the sustainable development of our planet.