Libraries and Sustainability: Programs and Practices for Community Impact

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Library workers at all types of organizations, as well as LIS students learning about this newest Core Value of Librarianship, will find this book an easy-to-digest introduction to what staff at a range of libraries have accomplished in incorporating sustainability into their decision making and professional practices. In addition, a discussion about the role of economics and sustainability will challenge readers to stretch in new ways to positively impact their communities.

As a core value of librarianship, sustainability is not an end point but a mindset, a lens through which operational and outreach decisions can be made. And it extends beyond an awareness of the roles that libraries can play in educating and advocating for a sustainable future. As the programs and practices in this resource demonstrate, sustainability can also encompass engaging with communities in discussions about resilience, regeneration, and social justice. Inspiring yet assuredly pragmatic, the many topics explored in this book edited by members of ALA's Sustainability Round Table and ALA’s Special Task Force on Sustainability include

  • a discussion of why sustainability matters to libraries and their user communities;
  • real-life examples of sustainability programming, transformative community partnerships, collective responses for climate resilience, and green building practices;
  • lessons learned and recommendations from library workers who have been active in putting sustainability into practice;
  • the intersection of sustainability with the work of equity, diversity, and inclusion;
  • suggestions regarding the revision of library and information science curriculum in light of the practical need to build community resilience;
  • an examination of how libraries’ efforts to support Doughnut Economics can bolster the United Nations' work on the Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to address the global impacts of climate change; and
  • potential collaborators for future sustainability-related initiatives.

Introduction: Sustainability as a Journey Rather than a Destination

Part I: Leadership
Chapter 1     Walking the Path to Sustainable Library Certification 
Jill Davis, Jennifer Ferriss, and Lisa Kropp

Chapter 2    Rapid Library Disaster Response and Recovery for Community Resiliency        Michele P. Stricker

Chapter 3    Changing Staff Behaviors around Waste Reduction and Diversion Using a Community-Based Social Marketing Approach 
Amanda Foster Kaufman, Brian Cohen, and Jeff Eller

Part II: Planning
Chapter 4    Demystifying Sustainability in Library Buildings 
Lan Ying Ip, Tamar Warburg, Lauren Stara, and Andrea Bunker

Chapter 5    Using Permaculture in Rural Libraries to Help Save the World
April Griffith

Chapter 6    Sustainable Event Planning for Libraries and Library Organizations             Evan Meszaros and Mandi Goodsett

Part III: Programming
Chapter 7    How Repair Events at Libraries Can Build Social Infrastructure and Create Sustainable Culture 
Gabrielle Griffis

Chapter 8    Modelling Sustainable Choices: Practical Suggestions for Librarians Working with Children and Families Sustainable Events
Larissa M. Clotildes

Chapter 9    Connecting Community Through Sustainability: Seeds, Climate Action Kits and Repair Cafes
Jennifer Rowan, Aiyang Ma, and Karen Sharkey

Part IV: Transformation
Chapter 10    Why we can’t talk about sustainability in libraries without also talking about racism 
Erin Elzi

Chapter 11    Community-Based Librarianship: A First Step toward Sustainability
Ling Hwey Jeng, Ph.D.

Chapter 12    Libraries in the Doughnut Economy 
Monika Antonelli, René Tanner, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, and Adrian Ho

About the Editors and Contributors 

René Tanner

René Tanner is the Science Librarian and Head of Research Services for Olin Library at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. She is a former chair of the American Library Association’s Sustainability Round Table and a recent co-chair of the American Library Association's Special Task Force on Sustainability. She has previously published on the topic of seed libraries and their importance in the development of food appreciation and local knowledge of food crops.

Adrian K. Ho

Adrian K. Ho is coordinator of digital scholarship at the University of Kentucky Libraries in Lexington. He was a member of the American Library Association Special Task Force on Sustainability and is a current member of the American Library Association Sustainability Round Table. He has given presentations about libraries, sustainability, and resilience. His ORCID ID is

Monika Antonelli

Monika Antonelli is an outreach librarian and professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She is the co-editor of the book Greening Libraries, which in 2013 received the Best Business Book award at the Green Book Festival. Her article “The Green Library Movement: An Overview and Beyond” was recently translated into Russian and published in Nauchniye I Tekhnicheskie Biblioteki. She has earned permaculture certification, and currently serves on her university’s Environmental Committee.

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich (MLS, LEED AP) is the Executive Director of the Mid-Hudson Library System (NY) and the co-founder/current president of the Sustainable Libraries Initiative (SLI). For over twenty years, Rebekkah has worked with public libraries across the globe to ensure library services are relevant and responsive so that our communities thrive. Rebekkah is an active member of the American Library Association (ALA), most recently chairing their new Council Committee on Sustainability; serving on the board of the Center for the Future of Libraries; and was a founding board member of their Sustainability Round Table. Rebekkah was recognized as a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2010 and was presented with the New York Library Association's Outstanding Service to Libraries Award in 2018. Aldrich is an adjunct professor at the Palmer School of Library & Information Science at Long Island University, serves as Library Journal's Sustainability columnist, and has written or co-edited three books for ALA Editions. Rebekkah is a frequent national and international presenter and writer on the topic of leading libraries forward in smart, practical, and effective ways.

"Sustainability is a worldwide goal, and this book showcases how libraries can contribute. The four editors and 17 other contributors are public and academic librarians (and two library architects), who all have substantial experience in this area. The editors assert that sustainability is created by environmentally sound, socially equitable, economically feasible practice ... Librarians will appreciate these practical strategies for community-based sustainability.”
— Booklist

"In her introductory remarks, co-editor Rebekkah Smith Aldrich discusses the 2021 IPCC report which clearly shows what efforts need to be made in all areas if the climate targets for this and the next decade are to be met. Libraries play an important role not only in raising awareness for this topic (“to step into the necessary role as leaders on the topic of sustainability”), but also as actors for climate protection and sustainability (“but to transform the world in a way that combats climate change and builds community resilience”) ... The book is recommended for libraries of all sizes and types – both because of the food for thought and the many practical suggestions for implementing sustainability goals.”
— Beate Hoerning, German Green Library Network

"The local focus of the work describes practical steps to implement greening and sustainable processes to grow a library. The examples of the practical steps of chapters 1-9 are exciting and contagious, making this a go-to book for anyone interested in imple­menting sustainability processes in their library. Chapters 10-12 provide food for thought.”
— Journal of Hospital Librarianship

"[The book] is clearly structured, allowing readers to choose chapters of interest and follow up on the references. With a range of examples covering distinct aspects of sustainability, from the nitty-gritty of building retrofitting to modelling sustainable choices when working with children, there are many fruitful initiatives to consider. As the editors emphasize, this collection is a snapshot in time of an evolving journey. It is one that all libraries can, and should, embark upon."
— Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association