Please take a look at the January/February 2001 issue of Public Libraries, which is devoted to the theme “Public Libraries Build Sustainable Communities.” The issue’s contributors offer a wealth of information about sustainability as well as thoughtful insights about how public libraries can involve themselves in the sustainability equation. As Suzanne Reymer noted in her “From the Field” contribution to this newsletter in February 2001, it’s a very fine line between presenting principles of sustainability without being considered an environmental radical or someone who is on the fringe. The issue of Public Libraries addresses those concerns, so take some time to read it.
With this issue of the newsletter we add an occasional feature called “Milestones,” which will call your attention to significant individuals, dates, publications, or events. If you have a milestone to contribute, please forward them to Paula Gotsch, Associate Director, Global Learning, Inc., at firstname.lastname@example.org, or David Guyer, Project Coordinator, American Library Association, at email@example.com
Enjoy the newsletter.
Long time Dartmouth College professor Donella Meadows, who in 1972 co-wrote The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome on the Predicament of Mankind, a “landmark, best-selling book that predicted worldwide environmental collapse,” died February 20, 2001, at age 59.
The Limits to Growth sold more than nine million copies and was translated into twenty-eight languages. The book was based on research Meadows did at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with her then-husband Dennis Meadows. The book was sponsored by an influential group of industrialists and scientists who dubbed themselves the Club of Rome.
Through early use of computer modeling, the study concluded that Earth would reach its growth limits within one hundred years. The computers projected that population, food production, and industrial output would explode, depleting resources so quickly that by the early twenty-first century, production would crash and death rates would soar. The authors advocated “deliberate checks” on economic and population growth.
Meadows wrote or co-wrote nine other books and a newspaper column, “The Global Citizen.” She lived for years on a small organic farm, and recently helped found the Cobb Hill community in Hartland Four Corners, Vermont, where residents share chores and grow organic food.
Source: The Chicago Tribune
Making Cities Work is a new strategy for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that targets growing rates of urbanization in developing countries. This initiative is an agency-wide strategy that emphasizes urban considerations in both new and ongoing development activities. The implementation of the Making Cities Work strategy includes building alliances within USAID and forging partnerships with various groups and organizations, raising awareness about urbanization issues and programs, and increasing capacity to improve urban management through training courses and partnership programs. The Office of Urban Programs in USAID’s Center for the Environment is the principal promoter of the Making Cities Work strategy and the contact office within the agency on urban issues. For more information about this initiative, as well as urban tools and resources, please go the Web site at www.makingcitieswork.org.
In a speech in Paris earlier this year before the G-8 Task Force on Renewable Energy, Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), stated that accelerating the introduction of green “environmentally friendly” energy such as solar, wind, and wave power is one of the most pressing issues facing mankind in the new millennium. Toepfer added that green energy must be at the heart of sustainable development if the threats of climate change and the need to tackle poverty and ill health in the developing world are to be addressed in any significant fashion.
Toepfer added “sustainable development, or not cheating on your children, means things like ensuring our ever-growing cities function as stimulating and vibrant places to live and work, to ensuring that the poorest people in the world are not forced to chop down forests full of precious wildlife for wood to cook or keep warm.”
At its summit in summer 2000, the G-8 group created the Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force) to enhance global understanding of the challenges and opportunities posed by information and communication technologies, and to mobilize resources and coordinate efforts to address the global digital divide. The Markle Foundation serves on the DOT Force as the United States nonprofit member. As part of the consultation process, the foundation is sponsoring the DIGOPP Online Working Group through April 20, 2001, which is examining the relationship between digital divide issues and development policies, poverty reduction, and reduction of inequalities at the global level.
To join the DIGOPP Working Group, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not enter a subject, and on the first line of the message, type: subscribe digopp. Do not put anything after “digopp.” At that point you will receive a welcome letter to the Working Group.
The United States Internet Council (USIC) has issued a report titled “State of Africa’s Internet 2000” that finds high connectivity costs, low incomes, poor infrastructure, illiteracy, lack of trained personnel, disinterest, and a failure to understand the benefits of Internet access continue to slow the expansion of computer penetration and Internet use in Africa. The online population for all of Africa is between 1.15 million and 2.58 million. South Africa has 1.05 million people online, followed by Egypt with 50,000, Morocco with 20,000, and Kenya with 15,000. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the only country not directly connected to the Internet, but only eight countries have nationwide dial-up access, while forty-two countries have public access in the capital cities only.
Keys to Information, Technology, and Education (KITE) is a newly formed nonprofit organization that has developed a Web site, www.kiteinc.org, where users can find information about community development, technology transfer, open source software, and the global “digital divide.”
John F. Kennedy University, located in the San Francisco Bay area, recently announced plans to become the first university in the United States to be designed entirely on “Green Principles.” Established in 1964, the university is building a new campus that will employ green building materials and ultra-efficient energy and water consumption systems. The university will also integrate principles of sustainability into its curriculum. According to university president Charles E. Glasser, the university “will serve as a beacon of environmental sustainability throughout our community and throughout higher education in the nation.” For more on this initiative, please see the university Web site at www.jfku.edu/special/green.html.
Civitas 2004 reports that in Evanston, Illinois, a pediatrician and an environmental engineer have teamed up to tackle the problem of lead poisoning from contaminated soil in Chicago’s West Town community, and are looking for the best way to get the job done. Their tools, which are sunflowers, corn, kale, grass, and science, may seem a bit unconventional, but have been shown as effective in fighting such contamination.
Helen M. Binns, M.D., a researcher at Children’s Memorial Institute for Education and Research, and Kimberly A. Gray, associate professor of civil engineering at Northwestern University, are leading a federally funded, two-year phytoremediation project in Chicago’s West Town community. The study of using plants to fight this contamination will provide data necessary to develop a more widespread intervention program for urban centers across the United States, and possibly the world, that need inexpensive methods to combat lead-contaminated soil.
A nonprofit group called Archi-treasures has become involved in the project by planting different kinds of grasses in the yards of forty urban homes. The selection of plantings is based on the research and results of scientific experiments that Gray is conducting in her laboratory. Twenty other homes will serve as a control group and will receive no grasses this year.
Phytoremediation is the use of living green plants to remove toxins from the soil or other contaminated areas. Students working for the researchers came up with a list of plants, including goldenrod, sunflowers, corn, and others, that should extract lead from the West Town soil—but the degree of their effectiveness is unknown. At the end of the season the researchers will test the plants and soils for their lead content. The goal is to learn which plants remove lead from these soils, and what the best conditions are for lead removal.
From Anne Raymer, Head of Special Services, St. Joseph County (Ind.) Public Library:
As the Earth’s population escalates further, its carrying capacity will be strained. Recycling and more productive use of available land will help meet raw material and food needs, and increase long-term sustainability. One type of project that encompasses all “three Es” (environment, equity, economy) of the sustainability equation is the community garden. While the library has not yet proceeded with establishing the garden, the goal is to begin in the spring of 2001.
The manager of the Western Branch of the St. Joseph County Public Library, Paula Dale, and I developed a Power Point presentation on how to create and sustain a community garden. The Western Branch Library is located in a low-income, at-risk population section of South Bend. People in the community often underuse this facility because they fear a heavy teenage after-school crowd or are reluctant to visit a facility in a perceived high-crime area. Despite these perceptions, the branch draws a regular patron base that appreciates its multiple resources and high-quality programming, including a wide array of popular, well-attended children’s programming.
The branch is attractively landscaped and has additional land available that is an ideal space for a community garden. Area residents who enjoy gardening will be encouraged to volunteer time and talent to further beautify the landscape and create a crop of vegetables for harvest. The project will be planned by volunteers working in conjunction with the branch manager, with the volunteers responsible for the actual work involving care of the garden.
All volunteers will be required to participate in planting the garden to instill a share of ownership and pride. Schedules will be developed for fertilizing, weeding, pruning, and watering plants, with volunteers signing up for each task. Volunteers will rotate regularly to allow all them to become well grounded on the concepts of establishing and maintaining the garden. All pest control measures will utilize concepts of integrated pest management to reduce or eliminate pesticide application, and determine the best type of pesticide for the garden. After its initial development, volunteers, working in conjunction with the library branch manager and garden coordinator, will decide what type of paving materials are most suitable for the garden paths to maximize their use by the public while maintaining the integrity of the garden itself.
Volunteers will have regularly scheduled meetings to create a garden layout, arrange a planting schedule, and plan for the garden as it develops. Planting decisions will also be made relative to the best mix of annual, biannual, and perennial flowers to be selected, as well as a diverse selection of vegetables to complement and enhance the flowers. Consideration will be given to the indigenous wild flowers that naturally thrive in Indiana. Volunteers will harvest the garden, with its bounty shared by volunteers and library staff. Or, as a fundraising effort, members of the public could participate in a harvest sale to raise money for the garden.
It is important that all age groups in the community participate in every stage of the community garden project. The public library community garden can then be a model for other institutions with available land, and area residents who can volunteer some time weekly to make the garden grow. Community gardens have broad-based support in many communities, and provide an opportunity for members of the community to turn fallow land into a productive, sustainable resource. A community garden at a library is the perfect venue for such an undertaking. Its appeal is broad, and its implementation easily achievable—truly an example of a library working toward building a sustainable community.
For more information on community gardens and sustainable agriculture, please see the following resources: David Campbell, Gail Feenstra, and Sharyl McGrew, Entrepreneurial Community Gardens: Growing Food, Skills, Jobs, and Communities (Davis, Calif.: Univ. of California, 1999); Trauger Groh and Steven McFadden, Farms of Tomorrow: Community Supported Farms, Farm Supported Communities (Kimberton, Penn.: Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 1997); Jack Kittridge, “Community Supported Agriculture, Rediscovering Community,” in Rooted in the Land: Essays on Community and Place, Willim Vitek and Wes Jackson, eds. (New Haven: Yale Univ. Pr., 1996).
A few more Web sites for your information. If you see others of interest to the sustainable communities group, please forward them and they’ll be published in future issues of the newsletter.
Climate Equity Observer is a publication of EcoEquity, a new organization formed to note, analyze, and review the equity aspects of the emerging climate regime. Its goal is to put a single idea onto the agenda: a shift from the initial Kyoto framework to a new “equity framework” based on per capita rights to the atmosphere. Climate Equity Observer will soon have its own Web site. Until then, go to email@example.com for further information.
A recently issued report by the Northwest Product Stewardship Council titled Guide to Environmentally Preferable Computer Purchasing provides tips on how to make more environmentally friendly decisions when purchasing computer equipment. Discover what product features can damage the environment, what alternatives to seek, and where to go for more information. The guide can be downloaded at www.govlink.org/nwpsc.
A new report by the Institute for Southern Studies title “Green and Gold” ranks the fifty states by twenty economic and twenty environmental indicators. It concludes that for most places, strong environmental protection does not inhibit a robust economy. The report can be downloaded at www.southernstudies.org.
“Fair Trade” is a concept that can be defined as a minimum wage safety net for small farmers. When coffee, for example, is fairly traded, importers can buy directly from a cooperative of small farmers, not the large firms that normally control coffee exports. The farmers will always get at least a fair price (currently $1.26 per pound), or the market price, whichever is higher. Many grocery stores (especially cooperatives) in the United States offer the Equal Exchange brand of coffee, which is grown by these small cooperatives and guarantees these farmers a fair price for their harvest. For more information about fair trade, go to www.fairtradefederation.org or www.fairtrade.net.
For those of you traveling to Toronto, The Other Guide to Toronto is “the first city guide that marries tourism with the environment and urban ecology. With the upcoming 2008 Olympic bid, the recent release of Toronto City Council’s Green Plan, and ongoing plans to redevelop Toronto’s waterfront, there couldn’t be a better time to unveil Toronto’s greener and sometimes wilder side.” The guide is available at www.greentourism.on.ca.
“Towards Earth Summit 2002” is a Web site initiative of the United Nations Environment and Development Forum seeking to ensure that all major issues, processes, and stakeholders are able to participate in shaping the 2002 Earth Summit. The site offers a range of online resources, including a monthly online newsletter, reports on the global sustainable development agenda, and briefing papers covering key environment, economic, and development issues. For more information, please see the Web site at www.earthsummit2002.org.
Please let us know about upcoming events that are of interest to the LBSC project.
The Stockholm Challenge Award is a nonprofit initiative whose main role is to spread knowledge and encourage the use of information technology. It sponsors a yearly event to encourage cities and organizations to participate in the challenge, which focuses on the benefits that high tech can generate for their communities or organizations. The goal of the challenge is to reduce barriers and make information available. The challenge is looking for projects that engage and inform people, and “offer them a new way to develop and improve their common life.” The challenge is free and projects compete in seven categories: new economy, education, health and quality of life, public services and democracy, culture and entertainment, environment, and global village. The deadline for submissions is April 1, 2001. Sign up for the challenge by filling out the entry form at www.challenge.stockholm.se.
Ann Arbor, Michigan, will host the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) North America Rio + 10 Preparatory Conference on June 20–23, 2001 (the exact location in Ann Arbor will be confirmed at a later date). The conference is a “major environmental event that will focus on the role of local governments to support sustainable development. The conference will be one of six preparatory meetings being held to prepare for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. A primary focus of the 2002 World Summit will be international example of successful “ground up” approaches to sustainability. The findings generated by this conference will be combined with the results of the other regional meetings and presented at the World Summit. Further information can be obtained from the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau at (734) 995-3802, or from the ICLEI Web site at www.iclei.org.
Water and Health is the theme of the 2001 World Water Day, to be held March 22, 2001. To support celebrations of this event, please visit the World Water Day Web site at www.worldwaterday.org. Information on this year’s theme will be regularly posted on the site and by e-mail up to the day, and will continue throughout the year.
Melanie Buckingham, Librarian for the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Raleigh
“Is it appropriate for librarians to be advocating for sustainability in government organizations?” This was a question posed to Renee Vaillancourt during her LBSC workshop in Riverton, Wyoming, and mentioned in her feature article in LBSC #2. The question made me re-evaluate my role in the sustainability effort. When I originally heard about the LBSC preconference, I was excited about the topic. I knew it also would easily apply to my job as a librarian for the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). But what I didn’t realize at the time was the array of opportunities that were opened when I re-examined my role as a librarian in sustainability issues. Maybe “advocating” is not the right word to use, but instead “educating” and “providing opportunities.” After all, our role in LBSC is not to advocate a particular right or wrong method for improving our communities. It is about providing an open forum and resources for ideas about environmental education, equity for all citizens, and economic sustainability.
Using the “Workshop-in-a-Box” materials and developing some materials of our own, Karen Perry and I co-presented at a workshop last fall for the North Carolina Association of School Librarians. The number of attendees at our workshop was limited, which may have been influenced by the large number of concurrent sessions available at the time of our workshop or by the isolated location of our meeting room. However, the experience left me with a challenge to demonstrate that “sustainable communities” is just as vital an issue for librarians as collection development or children’s services. Keeping that challenge in mind before preparing future workshops I now look for sustainable opportunities in my day-to-day responsibilities as a librarian. As I see these opportunities, I make note of them to use for ideas for future sustainable workshops. Here are some examples that I found:
- Re-examine policies for discarding equipment, furniture, and books. Can other libraries or organizations use these items? At the other end, does your library or organization consider recycled items when making purchasing decisions? In the case of the DENR library, discarded items must be sent to State Surplus because they are purchased with state funds. This action provides an opportunity for these items to be re-used.
- Is your library staffing promoting sustainable communities? The DENR library has recently promoted library internships at historically black colleges. The library has also contacted retired citizens’ organizations in a search for volunteers. Both efforts have lead to more diverse staffing opportunities at the library.
- Does your sponsoring agency or organization (city, county, state, or federal government, or private sector) have a sustainability team? If not, suggest the formation of the group and offer to serve on the committee. Within North Carolina state government, each department has a sustainability team. Since joining the team as a division representative, I have learned about sustainable efforts throughout state government. I have developed a library collection of sustainability materials and promoted them to the team and throughout the department. Currently, I am working with team members to develop a sustainability Web site. The goal of the site is to provide sustainability tips to state employees as well as demonstrate that state government can be a role model for sustainability through its own practices.
- Consider if meetings at your facilities use sustainable practices. The DENR library monthly workshops are now waste-free using finger food and re-usable dishware.
The challenge for librarians who are involved in the LBSC effort is to find those connections between regular library roles and services to sustainable practices and to communicate those ideas through workshops, library collections, and public relations to other librarians and to citizens within their communities.
Maria Anna Jankowska, University of Idaho Library, Moscow
The duty of protecting and saving the environment is enormous and every effort should contribute toward its realization. This is why I viewed the ALA workshop on Libraries Build Sustainable Communities as a big opportunity for librarians to contribute to environmental protection efforts. Almost two weeks after the workshop in Chicago, I had a chance to share my workshop experiences and newly gained skills with a group of public librarians attending a summer institute organized by the Idaho State Library. During the whole-day session planned by Ann Abrams from the Idaho State Library, the participants of the advocacy workshop could discover how libraries were uniquely positioned to become vital players in sustaining communities. Abrams started with familiarizing the participants (all of them were directors of small public libraries in Idaho) with the findings of Benton research reports on Libraries in the Digital Age ( www.benton.org/Libraries) and their implications for the future of Idaho’s libraries.
Next, I presented a section on Sustaining Communities: Deciding Tomorrow Today in which I included most of the core and extension recommended activities from the Chicago workshop. Librarians enjoyed Postcards from Home as an interactive activity.
All presented postcards addressed issues relevant to Idaho, such as auto traffic and parking lot space in a small suburban town, damaging results of coal mining in mountain ranges, unplanned sprawl of a housing development, and saving pristine drinking water sources. The participants of the workshop enjoyed the Community Inventory Roleplaying activity even more. This exercise showed them that public libraries could be involved at many levels in their communities, including economic development, air quality, land use, job training, health care, civic participation, literacy, and quality education.
As a case study, speaker Erin McCurker, Boise Basin Library director, presented her successful ways of building dynamic partnerships and earning an important place at the community table. These activities started a discussion on local problems in participants’ communities and how their libraries could participate in solving them. The discussion was very lively and resulted in proposals such as: host a reception for small business owners and chambers of commerce in order to show them ways the library can help their economic development; provide story time during civic meetings so that families can attend them; provide library space to hold local functions; promote recommended reading for sustainable development; actively participate in grant writing; or attend a local civic meeting representing the public library. The workshop was highly praised by all participants because of practical solutions helping libraries to change their stereotype in local communities. All directors enjoyed learning ways to change the library’s image as an active partner in building more sustainable local communities.
Mary Pat Kraemer, Community Services Director, Los Alamos, N.M.
Laurie Macrae and I, New Mexico’s team, early on determined we must have been related to the L’il Abner character Joe Bfstplk, “...the world’s worst jinx who always travels with a dark cloud over his head.” Let me explain.
When participants for the Libraries Build Sustainable Communities were announced, neither Laurie nor I (despite the fact that we are good friends) were aware each other had been selected to participate in the LBSC training, so we missed a rare opportunity to travel together to the conference and missed an opportunity to catch up on old times. Upon my arrival and upon learning that Laurie was my counterpart, I eagerly awaited her arrival but became confused and then concerned when she failed to show up. I had no choice but to continue, but was nagged by worries throughout the day. Meanwhile, Laurie had been suddenly struck by an apparent case of food poisoning, missed her flight, and was forced to miss the entire first day of the conference, which, of course, included LBSC training.
Following the conference, our efforts to connect were hampered by my involvement in recovery efforts following the Cerro Grande fire, the worst forest fire in New Mexico history, which burned close to 50,000 acres and left more than 400 families in Los Alamos homeless. We eventually got together and during the two hours we had together I tried to recreate and share with her some of the excitement and almost magical enthusiasm I had experienced in Chicago. As a result of our meeting, we put together and outline for the workshop we presented in October 2000 at the New Mexico Library Association mini-conference held in Las Cruces.
Because of work conflicts Laurie and I had to travel separately, each making the more than 325-mile journey on our own. The good news is that the often unpredictable New Mexico weather was at least benign, if not beautiful.
Everything was going smoothly until, while we were arranging materials and making last-minute preparations for the presentation, Laurie’s mysterious malady again overtook her. Because we had each fully prepared only our individual and alternating parts of the presentation, I was left terrified at the thought of giving a solo presentation. I learned from the experience to be aware of the material and prepare for any eventuality.
Laurie was able to participate in the presentation, but it was decidedly off-balance until midway into the program. We also found ourselves constrained by the format of the conference, which provided for one-and-a-half-hour blocks. My perception is that two hours is an absolute minimum period for an effective presentation. I’d also suggest incorporating some introductory get acquainted exercise or other ice breaker to determine the audience’s level of interest and knowledge of sustainability before following the presentation format. We had one participant who was disappointed in the presentation, but we couldn’t really discern why. It may have been a matter of differing expectations, but had we been more aware of the audience and its level of awareness and experience, we might have been able to provide something of value for that individual.
What was good? Above all, the twenty-two participants themselves were exceptional. We had a nice mix of public and academic experience plus some representation of local public officials. I was highly impressed with the vision of the participants and the intensity with which they involved themselves in the Postcards from Home exercise. They exhibited an impressive ability to relate sustainability to the uniqueness of their individual communities and to propose realistic yet creative applications of sustainability. The group showed particular sensitivity to those who were initially uncomfortable in the presenter’s role and slowly drew them out. Some of the most creative and unusual ideas of the session came out of this group dynamic. The participants offered a nice balance between presenting their own experiences and yet being very open to listening to and learning from others.
A second clear positive relates to the obvious involvement of participants in their communities. In retrospect if we had identified this particular audience trait earlier, we might have shifted our presentation to focus more specifically on their particular interests in outreach to community officials and groups. Understanding audience expectations make the impact stronger and increase audience satisfaction. Developing a presentation that allows for shifts to specific areas depending on audience interests and level of knowledge is something I would suggest, although that could be a major challenge and would definitely have an impact on preparation time.
Although I agree with those who suggest that audience-specific postcards could be helpful; I also found that even where we had unfamiliar case studies, some participants enjoyed imagining what the scene represented and created some very credible scenarios which allowed us all to speculate and dream with them. We were all “outside the box” and it helped some of us be more expansive and speculative than had we limited ourselves to our own experiences.
Finally, it occurred to me after the fact that Laurie and I might have been more effective if we had had the time to understand better our individual views on sustainability and review some practical applications from our own experience. Had we done that, we might have known better when to defer to each other for responses during the presentation. I am sure that if a team continues to practice and present it will become more effective.
In spite of the cloud hanging over us, the experience was personally rewarding and was of value to those who participated in the workshop.
Paula Gotsch, Associate Director
Global Learning, Inc.
1018 Stuyvesant Ave.
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