This second in a series of newsletters (but first to be distributed in both printed form and electronically) works to maintain the momentum and continue the enthusiasm many of you have expressed in expanding your knowledge of sustainability and its applicability to librarians, libraries, and the communities they serve. We hope the content of the newsletter provides you with food for thought, alternative ways of approaching sustainability, and tips on imparting concepts of sustainability to a large audience with varying levels of knowledge and interest. If you have further questions, please contact Paula Gotsch, Associate Director, Global Learning, Inc., at firstname.lastname@example.org, or David Guyer, Project Coordinator, American Library Association, at email@example.com.
Thank you for your continued interest and support of this program. Enjoy the newsletter!
Members of the LBSC steering committee and state trainers had an informative, lively, and productive meeting when they met at the ALA Midwinter Meeting January 12, 2001. Highlights included:
- Twenty attendees, including ALA Immediate Past President Sarah Ann Long.
- Presentations from three state trainers who outlined their experiences in presenting the LBSC workshop. All three stated that one of the essential elements for a successful workshop is tailoring specific exercises (e.g., “Postcards from Home”) to the audience, increasing their relevancy, topicality potential for greater group interaction and engagement.
- Three outside speakers who provided additional perspectives on sustainability—Patricia Bonner from the Environmental Protection Agency, Susan Boyd from Concern, Inc., and Susan Saragi from the United States Agency for International Development.
- The introduction and small group discussion of a new workshop extension activity titled “Is the World Really Shrinking?” which was recently sent to all trainers for their use in presenting the workshop.
- Discussion of topics to be covered and what type of program to offer in June at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco. Some ideas put on the table included a presentation of the workshop, continuing the momentum of the program at the conclusion of the grant period in August 2001, presenting a conference program rather than a preconference, presentations from trainers describing their experiences, and a videotape of one of the workshops from the field. Additional suggestions are needed and welcome. Please forward any you might have to David Guyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to all who participated and offered valuable suggestions and insights. Please continue to do so.
Responses to the first nine LBSC workshops are in, and 161 of 172 participants completed evaluations. We’re pleased to report that 72 percent ranked the overall workshop as excellent or good and another 25 percent gave us an average, meaning 97 percent of participants were satisfied or pleased with the experience. Similarly, when asked to indicate if their understanding of sustainable communities had increased, 68 percent gave us 4 or 5 on the “substantially” scale, another 24 percent gave us a 3, for a combined total of 92 percent.
For this issue of the newsletter, we offer accounts from trainers Suzanne Reymer and Renee Vaillancourt, who have been there in presenting the LBSC workshop. They offer their insights on the training process and materials, as well as audience reaction to the workshop. Their commentary may be useful to others of you in your presentation of the workshop.
Thanks to both for their contributions.
From Renee Vaillancourt, a freelance writer, editor, and library consultant, who lives and works outside Missoula, Montana
On September 20–22, 2000, I traveled to Riverton, Wyoming, to present a workshop based on my book, Bare Bones Young Adult Services. During the opening session of the conference, the conference coordinator announced that the “Libraries Build Sustainable Communities” workshop (which was scheduled for the day after my Bare Bones presentation) would be cancelled because the presenter was unable to make it to the conference. Seeing the disappointed faces of many of the conference attendees, I offered to fill in and present the program myself.
This set off a chain of events that made me realize that libraries not only build sustainable communities, but librarians truly are a sustainable community, in and among themselves. Carey Hartmann, the assistant county librarian of the Laramie County Public Library system, offered to do anything in her power to help me take over the program. She contacted Lucie Osborn, the original presenter, and asked if she could send the Libraries Build Sustainable Communities kit to me in Riverton via overnight mail. Concerned that the package wouldn’t arrive in time (the presentation was scheduled at 9:45 a.m. the following morning and a snow storm was on its way) I also contacted David Guyer at ALA who faxed all of the relevant pages of the LBSC workbook (including the “Postcards from Home”!) to me at my hotel.
Everything but the photos came through just fine, and after a minor mishap where the hotel personnel misplaced the faxed pages, I gave the handouts to Hartmann, who networked with Dorothy Phelps from the local (Riverton Branch) public library to get them photocopied for me. She was even able to make overhead transparencies of the workshop objectives and the definition of a sustainable community. Then I settled in to my hotel room to prepare for the next day’s presentation.
I am one who likes to review and practice before speaking in public, so I took out the hotel notepad and began to take notes as I sorted through the presentation materials. I soon realized, however, that my efforts were really unnecessary. Global Learning had already created a step-by-step outline for us that can literally be presented successfully, fresh out of the box. After placing the materials in the order I would present them, I was pretty much ready to make my presentation.
I awoke with great anticipation the next morning, hoping that the overnight package, with the “real” postcards from home photos had arrived. No such luck. However, the snow storm did arrive with a prediction of up to six inches of snow on the mountain pass that I had to drive over to get back to the airport in Jackson Hole that afternoon. With an ear to the weather report, I scavenged manila envelopes from the hotel front desk and the conference registration table to use as borders for the poorly reproduced postcards from home photographs. Actually, the envelopes turned out to be quite handy because I could put the questions about each image right into the envelope that corresponded to it (rather than on the back of the photos where they were more likely to be seen before we were ready to read them). I wrote captions above each photo, describing its image, to help people discern what was being depicted.
Fifteen participants arrived and participated in the workshop, a number that seemed good to me, considering there may have still been some confusion about whether or not it was cancelled. I did the core workshop and the extension activity on “Our Local Communities.” I also provided participants with all the handouts, including “Calculating Your Ecological Footprint.”
It was interesting to see how people from one particular region clustered around “postcards from home” that were similar to the places in which they lived. Everyone had stories about sustainability in their local communities, some of them discouraging, others inspiring. The group came up with an extensive list of how libraries can get involved in the sustainability discussion.
There also were some questions about whether it was appropriate for librarians to be advocating for sustainability in government organizations. Steve Sumerford, Abe Anhang, and I all address this topic, from different perspectives, in the Public Libraries Build Sustainable Communities theme issue of Public Libraries magazine (the journal of the Public Library Association), scheduled to be published on February 7, 2001.
I had to leave immediately after the program in Riverton (with maps in hand and advice from well-meaning librarians ringing in my ears) in order to make it back to the airport, through the snow, to catch my flight. But Carey Hartmann collected the evaluations and mailed them to me after the conference. The responses were uniformly favorable, although several participants commented that they came into the workshop with a solid foundation in issues of sustainability, and that the evaluation form didn’t adequately account for pre-existing awareness of the topic.
The whole experience of presenting the Libraries Build Sustainable Communities workshop on the fly was similar to my drive back to the Jackson Hole airport in the snow—a little bit frantic, a little bit scary, but very beautiful. Thanks to a supportive community of librarians pulling together, it all worked out just fine.
From Suzanne Reymer, Statewide Technology Librarian, Montana State Library, Billings
I facilitated two Libraries Build Sustainable Communities workshops during Montana State Library’s 2nd Annual Fall Workshop held in Lewistown, Montana, on September 22–23, 2000. Eighty-five librarians and staff from public, school, academic, and special libraries from all over the state registered for this LSTA-funded workshop, which provided CE credit for school and public librarians. Unfortunately, several registrants were unable to attend because of an early fall snowstorm. The LBSC workshop attracted more than twenty participants, mostly from public libraries, but there were also a few representatives from school libraries as well as one academic librarian. I was particularly pleased to have the Lewistown city manager sit in on one session, and a member of the Library Advisory Council attended the other. Not only did they bring in some fresh perspectives, they also had an opportunity to learn more about the dynamic potential of libraries.
There is a great deal of interest in Montana in the concept of sustainable communities. As is the case throughout rural America, many of our communities are struggling to survive and cope with both declining populations and decreasing tax bases. For many of these communities’ leaders, sustainability means economic development, period.
Consequently, there was some discomfort with and resistance to the perceived environmental slant of the workshop. Environmentalism and economic development are often viewed as mutually exclusive in our part of the country. As a result, librarians in economically devastated communities are afraid of being discredited and branded as environmental zealots if they become publicly identified with the environmental movement.
I took the position that it was the role of the library and librarian to advocate for the process rather than for any one position. The issue of equity was not nearly as controversial. Our libraries have traditionally been involved in literacy and community outreach programs to provide and improve library services to the disadvantaged. However, one participant did point out that Montana has a significant minority population that often has been excluded from such discussions: our Native American tribes. It would be interesting to work with others on how the Libraries Build Sustainable Communities program might be applied to public and school libraries and/or tribal libraries serving reservations.
I’d decided to try the first exercise using all the “Postcards from Home” for the first session, even though I suspected that urban and waterfront photos would not evoke much response from librarians in small rural libraries. I was right. Only four of the photos attracted groups for discussion. So, I resolved to use just those for future training sessions. I’d thought about creating my own postcards but, lacking the case histories, I feared that photos of rural communities with boarded up businesses along Main Street would prove more depressing than provocative. I did find case studies about sustainable communities projects in the region on the Sustainable Communities Network Web site at www.sustainable.org/casestudies/studiesindex.html. I’d like to use some of these in future training sessions, perhaps as additional handouts. I find that people are generally more interested in and inspired by the work and experiences of others in situations similar to theirs.
Another change I made after the first session was to drop the “Community Inventory Role Play.” I thought it was chaotic and confusing. Participants were often unfamiliar with the community roles assigned. If I were to use that exercise again, I would either let participants choose a community member card or have groups generate lists of individuals/groups in their communities who might serve as contacts within each of the economy, ecology, and equity areas. Then pairs could work on possible ways to approach such individuals/groups within their own communities. What I found most valuable was the opportunity for people to share information about their own communities during the “Our Local Communities” extension activity.
Many people have valuable input but are rather shy about speaking up in front of the whole group, so the small group dynamic of the discussion combined with the stick figure art helped break the ice and enabled everyone to contribute. Reporting to the whole group ran a little long because everyone insisted on reporting on his or her own community’s activities. In the future, I would be a bit stricter and enforce brief reports so we’d have time to direct the discussion back toward libraries.
Since most of the community projects had nothing to do with libraries, I’d like to get participants thinking of ways they might actually contribute to some of these types of projects now and in the future.
The librarian’s professional concern for assuring access to information—and subsequently information technology—provides linkages with many exciting developments around the globe.
- The African Digital Library Project is an online library with approximately eight thousand full E-text books in its collection. The library is available to any “resident” of Africa, and may be accessed at http://AfricaEducation.org/adl. A recent paper on the African Digital Library is available at www.pgw.org/papers/adl200011.htm.
- The Regency Foundation, a United Kingdom-based non-profit organization working with the United Nations and its agencies (see www.renency.org) was instrumental in setting up Telecentros Brasil (with offices in Sao Paulo), whose mission is to establish Sustainable Communities Telecenters (SCTs) in existing community centers throughout Brazil. These centers supply services at minimal cost to community members who have little or no access to learning and using information and communication technologies. A major objective of this program is to improve education levels, teach job-related skills, offer business and professional services, and provide other valuable services to communities, including telephone, fax, printing, e-mail, Web design, Web surfing, online services, and scanner use. Telecentros Brasil is in the process of designing and developing its own Internet portal, which will carry information on education for use by all ages. The portal also will offer access to business and professional courses and help groups as well as information on health concerns, available public services, human rights, citizenship, the environment, and jobs—all of which will be in Portuguese. Two of the SCTs have opened in Sao Paulo, with eighty additional SCTs planned for Sao Paulo in 2001. An initial basic computer course began on December 4, 2000, and was fully subscribed with 436 students enrolled; the cost was $15 for the two-month (thirty-two-hour) course that introduces students to Word, Excel, and use of the Internet. While The Regency Fund provided the funding for the initial costs of establishing the SCTs, the goal is long-term sustainability with individual SCT administrators required to present a viable business plan detailing costs and revenue for a variety of services offered by the centers.
- Costa Rica, through www.costarricense.com, offers a free e-mail account for all its citizens, with free access points in many communities and through other public and private organizations. In August 2000, all individual Costa Ricans, small and medium-sized businesses, and legal residents of the country obtained free access to e-mail, which they can use to receive and send messages and conduct business with public and private enterprises. Individuals gain access to their e-mail from any terminal by typing their user names and respective passwords. In endorsing the program, President Dr. Miguel Angel Rodriguez Echeverria said it is an integral component of “communication without frontiers.”
- The Online Volunteer Service, in conjunction with Netaid.org, which is operated by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV), has in the first nine months of its existence attracted approximately 2,800 applicants and more than 440 online volunteer projects. Using the power of the Internet, these online volunteers are sharing their skills and helping organizations around the world in working to overcome poverty—without leaving home. Skills most in demand among organizations seeking help from online volunteers are preparing proposals for fundraising, Web site development, translation, promotion, research, and writing and design for publications.
Andrea Goetzke of UNV’s Online Volunteering Unit said, “We’re off to a good start. The Online Volunteers are excited to be working with people from many different countries, accomplishing work that would otherwise be left undone.” Applicants are as young as fourteen, and include those beyond retirement age who have expressed an interest in volunteering and working on behalf of people in developing countries. Almost one-half of the volunteers are between nineteen and twenty-nine years of age, and more than 60 percent of the volunteers are female. More than one-third of the applicants are from Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Arab states.
Here are a few Web sites that may be useful. Please send us your suggestions for others.
The Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program (EPP) offered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently launched a Web site providing information for more than six hundred products and services. The database is one of several resources the EPP program has developed to assist government agencies in their purchase of environmentally preferable products. Organized into fifty categories, from appliances to vehicles, the database is a comprehensive resource for conducting pre-solicitation market research, revising performance specifications, developing contract language, or establishing evaluation criteria. The database includes more than 330 environmental standards and guidelines developed by government agencies and independent groups. More information about the program is available at www.epa.gov/oppt/epp/database.htm.
Also from the EPA, a step-by-step guide for local groups who want to work toward a sustainable community. The publication is titled On the Path to Becoming a Green Community: Let’s Go! How Do We Get There? Where Do We Want to Be? Where Are We Now? and provides details for planning and implementing sustainable actions. Each of the guide’s five steps results in a specific outcome. More information is available at www.epa.gov/greenkit.
During the next two years the United Nations will gather information on sustainable communities in preparation for the 2002 RIO+10 conference. RIO+10 will examine what has been accomplished since 1992, when the first Earth Summit was held, and where special emphasis should be placed for the next decade. For more information about RIO+10, visit www.un.org/rio+10.htm.
In 2001 the Nature Conservancy celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. From its inception as a small organization concerned about the Mainus River Gorge on the New York/Connecticut border, the conservancy has grown into a worldwide organization with a million members and at least one office in each of the fifty states. The conservancy’s contribution to global sustainable development includes the purchase and protection of twelve million acres of eco-regional land (land that typically crosses county and state borders and has ecological significance) in the United States and Canada, and sixty-two million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Rim. For more information about the Nature Conservancy office in your state, or the national office in Arlington, Virginia, visit www.tnc.org.
Please let us know about upcoming events that are of interest to the LBSC project.
Business Profiles in Sustainable Development, February 13–14, 2001, Marco Island, Florida. Visit www.sustainableusa.org.
Social Issues and the Environment: A Green Approach to Improving Our Communities, March 6–8, 2001, Nebraska City, Nebraska. Visit www.sustainableusa.com.
Paula Gotsch, Associate Director
Global Learning, Inc.
1018 Stuyvesant Ave.
Union, NJ 07083
(908) 964 1114
Fax: (908) 964 6335
Visit the NJ Sustainable Schools Network Web site at