We have received several comments that you would like the newsletter to have a tighter focus on sustainability and its relevance to libraries and librarianship. We turn to you, as readers of this newsletter and participants in your communities through the LBSC workshop and your own professional and personal activities, to give us some points to ponder in developing the focus of the newsletter and its contents.
Sustainability is a concept that is generally much more carefully examined and discussed in the realm of planning and community development. In those two areas sustainability is frequently a goal to be reached as a community strives for balance between economic development and maintaining or improving quality of life. Using sustainability as an underlying concept of the equation, community planners can strive for the balance between economic development and quality of life that preserves the community for future generations while maintaining or improving quality of life for current community members.
Librarians can play a role in community development by utilizing the vast array of resources at their disposal, accessible information available not simply to the “professionals” who may work with sustainability issues every day, but to numerous other constituencies with a stake in the planning/community development/sustainability equation. While librarians probably do not see their role as one of advocacy, they most assuredly see their role as providers of information to those seeking it; the results of that information quest can then be evaluated and utilized by those (read: everyone) with a stake in the process. Librarians can also help build communities by allowing various community groups to use library meeting facilities, by expanding collection development to include more resources on community development, sustainability, ecology, and the environment, and by urging their library administrators to become more actively involved in obtaining “a place at the table” in the community decision- and policy-making process.
Finally, sustainability is a topical issue that will become more important as resources shrink and competition for the resources “pie” becomes more acute. Library patrons will demand more information from a variety of resources, and librarians must be able to supply it but must also be equipped with a working knowledge about it and its importance. While the term sustainability defies easy explanation, it may be seen as a set of principles that allow a community to grow and develop by becoming environmentally aware of its present activities while ensuring long term community quality of life, which is the essence of community building and community development.
Comments? Send them to Paula Gotsch, Associate Director, Global Learning, Inc., at email@example.com or David Guyer, Project Coordinator, American Library Association, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy the newsletter.
Patti Butcher, Northeast Kansas Library System, Lawrence; Jean Hatfield, Johnson County Library, Shawnee Mission, Kansas
The Johnson County Library is a library system in suburban Kansas City that consists of 12 branches and a central library facility. The Library serves approximately 400,000 people. Branches are located in urban areas and in small communities. Patti Butcher, consultant with the Northeast Kansas Library System, and Jean Hatfield, Program Services Manager for the Johnson County Library (JCL), were asked to conduct a “Libraries Build Sustainable Communities” (LBSC) workshop for the Systemwide Information Group (SWIG) December meeting which is the monthly meeting of the supervisors in the library.
Jean was encouraged to attend the 2000 LBSC preconference workshop in Chicago by her director, Mona Carmack. Ms. Carmack was very interested in the idea of the library in community building. Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community was incorporated as a starting point for the strategic planning process and library staff were investigating how libraries can have an impact on economic development and quality of life issues important to every community.
As we prepared our workshop, we determined that the central outcome we wanted to convey from it was that library managers and staff would gain a greater awareness of the library’s place in the community and of possible partnership opportunities. We chose to emphasize the equity and economic issues rather than the environmental issues that were discussed at the workshop held during the preconference.
Since the library staff knew each other, we were able to eliminate the “icebreaker” activity and introductions. We gave the group some background on the workshop and why it was being presented to JCL staff.
One of the changes that Patti suggested was that the Postcards from Home activity be adapted to reflect PEOPLE rather than PLACE. She found 8 pictures of people or groups that reflect the diversity of populations that are served by the library. These pictures included:
- a large group of teenagers;
- a group of preschoolers in a school or day care setting;
- a small group of business people;
- a nuclear family (African-American);
- a wheelchair user with an assistive pet;
- a small group of senior citizens;
- two homeless people with assorted blankets and bags; and
- a large multi-generational ethnic family in ethnic dress.
The large group was divided into 8 small groups who were assigned to work with one of the pictures that was posted on the wall. Each group was asked to answer the following questions about each picture:
- Describe the group in the picture. (Demographics, location, economic condition, library use, etc.)
- How do we serve this group and what does the library have to offer them?
- How do our policies and procedures help them? Deter them?
- What other agencies serve this group in our community?
- How can we partner with these agencies?
The groups were given 10 minutes to discuss the pictures. The large group then came back together and heard the reports from each group. In general the group realized that there were some policies or procedures that might be a barrier to serving a particular population and that we might want to examine some of these policies to see if they are equitable for all groups. They also were able to discuss the services that we can provide to each group and what our possible partners might be in serving these patrons. During the debriefing the group discussed the issue of equity in providing library services to the diverse populations that the library serves and how the library can provide an economic impact on their lives.
The second exercise used was the extension activity “Community Inventory Role Play.” This activity was difficult for some of the participants. They either had difficulty adopting the “role” assigned to them, or they did not see how the exercise could be integrated into their daily work. They were unaware of how many other constituent groups in the community are potential partners in serving the community. They also realized that the new strategic plan currently being developed emphasizes interaction with many constituent groups, including partnership opportunities, which provided a positive and exciting frame of reference for them in evaluating this role play exercise. The director and other administrative staff emphasized the importance for group members to see themselves as leaders in the community as well as representatives of the library.
Overall the workshop was a success, as evidenced by both positive comments and written evaluations of it. Many participants stated that the workshop helped to focus their thinking as the library sets a new course.
David Ongley, Director, Tuzzy Consortium Library, Barrow, Alaska
It rains in Sitka in March. Good thing, too. Otherwise, how was I going to hold the attention of 26 librarians in one of the most beautiful places in Alaska? This city on Baranof Island hosted the Alaska Library Association annual conference from March 8–11, 2001. The “Libraries Build Sustainable Communities” workshop had been put in St. Gregory’s Parish Hall several wet blocks from the conference center. I had to ask directions because the place didn’t seem to be on any city maps. “Can’t miss it,” I was told. But I walked right past. I retraced my steps and saw a guy waving from a window in a building set back from the street. He was a conference volunteer sent to assist in setting up the hall.
While we set up the room I kept looking out the window and started flagging dripping librarians. They arrived in twos and threes, flapping umbrellas and shaking raincoats. There were many familiar faces, including state library officials, directors of large libraries and bush community libraries; a few strangers. I started to get nervous.
The workshop participants had just come from the conference keynote address, delivered by Martin Dillon of OCLC, titled “Knowledge Management and Libraries.” At the end of the address he’s asked two questions which I now repeated, a perfect segue to the workshop topic: “Why aren’t librarians managing communities?” and “Why are libraries missing these opportunities?”
We went through the introductory LBSC material easily enough. I thought the “Postcards from Home” exercise would probably not go over well in Alaska, but I was mistaken. Groups formed around all but one of the photographs. Even the big cityscape was selected. Lively and sometimes impassioned discussions followed concerning various issues of concern, including environmental issues, job issues, fishing issues, subsidence hunting issue, cultural issues, and Native issues.
I distributed the “Chattanooga Story” and found many parallels to it in a story about Sitka that I found on the Web site of the Sustainable Communities Network. The Sitka piece described how a mill closing in the mid-1990s had sparked a grassroots initiative that still reverberated throughout the community and the region. During the discussion I suspected there were individuals in the audience who knew much more about sustainability than I. They revealed themselves as Dorik Mechau and Carolyn Servid of the Island Institute ( http://home.gci.net/~island/index.html).
The Island Institute is a “non-profit organization that provides frameworks for people to collaborate and think creatively about how people can best live together in communities and how people cam best inhabit the places where they live.” Dorik and Carolyn shared their thoughts and experiences with the group. They believe that “civic engagement and civil discourse are two elements of the community life in Sitka that . . . allow people to work together toward a shared vision of long-term community well-being.” They discussed the value of the library in their community, and how they intended to make use of it as a result of the workshop.
After the “Thirty Things . . .” handout there was about 10 minutes left, just enough time to go quickly around the room to poll the participants on what they could work on in their communities; almost all found something they could work on. I reached the end, everyone applauded, and then filed out quickly. Maybe sustainability begins on a full stomach.
It seemed like any minute the sun should be breaking out from the gloomy mountains. I felt light-hearted and light-headed as I packed my papers and helped the volunteer tidy up. I hoped the workshop participants would consider the questions I’d asked at the beginning. I found the notes I’d taken at the Chicago preconference on which I’d written my own questions, questions that I wanted to discuss with this group but hadn’t: “What’s in it for libraries?” and “Can sustainable communities be built without libraries?” I was pretty sure I knew the answer to the first question. I wasn’t so sure about the second.
I stood at the door, ready to leave. It was still raining. I smiled. I’d probably miss lunch altogether. Maybe I wasn’t so hungry. I popped open my umbrella and headed down the hill.
The Resurgence of Citizens’ Movements by Paul Hawken
We live in a time in which every living system is in decline, and the rate of decline is accelerating as our economy grows. Given current corporate practices, not one wildlife reserve, wilderness, or indigenous culture will survive the global market economy. We are losing our forests, fisheries, coral reefs, topsoil, water, biodiversity, and climatic stability.
Yet I believe in odd miracles, in the intelligence that allows terns and swallows to find their way across the planet. And I believe that we are capable of creating a remarkable future for humankind. In the United States, more than 30,000 citizens’ groups, nongovernmental organizations, and foundations are addressing the issue of social and ecological sustainability. Worldwide, their number exceeds 100,000. Together, they address a broad array of issues, including environmental justice, ecological literacy, public policy, conservation, women’s rights and health, population growth, renewable energy, corporate reform, labor rights, climate change, trade rules, ethical investing, ecological tax reform, water conservation, and much more.
Remarkably, supporters of this new sustainability movement share a basic set of fundamental understandings about the Earth, how it functions, and the necessity of fairness and equity for all people in partaking of its life-giving systems. This shared understanding is arising spontaneously from different economic sectors, cultures, regions, and cohorts. And it is spreading throughout this country and the world. No one started this worldview, no one is in charge of it, and no orthodoxy is restraining it. I believe it is the fastest-growing and most powerful movement in the world today, unrecognizable to the American media because it is not centralized or led by charismatic white males. What is possible in 50 years is a world that is wonderfully messy and deliriously creative. We can begin the very necessary work of restoration. We can begin to reduce carbon in the atmosphere; recharge aquifers; bring back lands that have been taken by deserts; create habitat corridors for buffalo, panthers, and gray wolves; and thicken our paper-thin topsoil.
As for the United States, it will not be a country defined by technologies or measured in money. It will be a country in a world defined by the acts of restoring life on Earth—dancing, donning costumes, singing, performing rituals, enjoying magic, praying, worshiping, and playing.
Paul Hawken is the author of Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution and The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability . This except is from the Winter 2001 issue of EarthLight magazine.
Jerry Brown may have gotten a bad rap when he was pejoratively dubbed “Governor Moonbeam” as California’s head of state in the 1970s, but “Mayor Sunbeam” might be just right for the bold-thinking politico today. Brown has turned Oakland, California—where he was elected mayor in 1999—into the world’s largest green-powered city.
Delivering on a promise he made last November, when he announced that Oakland would purchase power from renewable energy sources such as wind, geothermal steam, and biomass, the city’s all-renewable $4 million energy package now powers its city hall, administration buildings, and traffic and street lights. In an interview with Peter Asmus, author of the book Reap the Wind, Brown says that “given the absence of bold ideas at the presidential and congressional level, cities and local governments must shoulder the burden of innovation.”— Marilyn Berlin Snell, writing in the March/April 2001 issue of Sierra
Industry experts estimate that Brazil recycled approximately 80 percent of the 9.5 billion aluminum cans sold in the country in 2000, which will put it on par with Japan’s trend setting rate of 79 percent established in 1999. By comparison the United States recycled 63 percent of its cans in 1999 and Europe as a whole recycled 41 percent. The boom in Brazilian recycling is due in large part to enterprising Brazilians who collect littered cans in cities and town throughout the country. Recycling cans has become a $110 million a year industry, employing about 150,000 Brazilians.
The Fantsuam Foundation works with women in rural communities in Nigeria on projects that seek to provide answers to poverty. One of the initiatives is the Mobile Community Telecentre (MCT) through which communities that have no access to electricity or telephones are provided IT training and eventually satellite-based Internet access. Each village will have its own e-mail address in the MCT electronic post office.
The Netaid.org Foundation is currently searching for “talented young professionals interested in Human Development and the Internet” for a three-month fellowship. Through a public-private partnership of the high-tech and development communities, in alliance with Internet users, Netaid.org is creating the largest global online community acting on extreme poverty worldwide. Applications, information, and questions can be directed to email@example.com.
Through an innovative distance learning program launched by the United Nations Development Program, students at 19 universities and other institutions around the world are linking up via the Internet to exchange information on promising solutions to urban environmental problems facing the poor. The course links students, researchers, and those working in public policy, with the main goal of helping developing countries build local capacity and expertise on ways that public-private partnerships can address urban environmental problems. More information on this, and other UNDP programs, can be obtained from www.undp.org.
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.
The Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) measures overall progress toward environmental sustainability for 122 countries. The ESI is based on 22 core “indicators” that combine two to six variables for a total of 67 underlying variables. The idea is to create cross-national comparisons of environmental progress as part of an effort to foster a more analytically driven approach to environmental decision-making. The report can be downloaded at www.ciesin.org/indicators/ESI.
The Eco-Smart Homes and Building Program designed to bridge the gap between understanding and applying sustainable development principles. The program, operated under license from the nonprofit Florida House Institute for Sustainable Development, provides free materials and design consultations, links to owners seeking energy efficient financing, and helping builders and developers gain positive media attention for their “green” building efforts. Visit the Web site at www.ecosmart.ws.
The Green Business Network is updated every business day with news, reviews, and other resources, which allows users to search for green business resources. Visit the site at www.greenbiz.com.
Earth Force, a national non-profit service learning, environmental and civic education organization, seeks partners for its two new after school offerings. In fall 2001 Earth Force will debut Earth Force After School, a program that uses the Earth Force community action and problem solving process to create an interactive, after school service for youth ages 10 to 15. Earth Force is seeking organizations that are interested in delivering this program to their communities. Visit the Web site at www.earthforce.org.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has new publications titled “Waste Wise Updates” (full text available online). Find it at www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/reduce/wstewise/pub_c.htm.
The EPA also has a Web site where information can be found about sustainable conference planning—pre-conference, conference, and post conference. It is a valuable site for those of you involved in conference planning, and outlines efforts you can make to reduce waste at all levels of the process. Go to the site at www.epa.gov/opptintr/epp/conf_planners.htm.
“Arab Women Connect” is a database containing topics of important to Arab women. The main Web address is www.arabwomenconnect.org.
Here’s a link to the research library of the International Institute for Sustainable Development: www.iisd.org/ic.
Greenleaf Publishing has recently announced the publication of Sustainable Solutions: Developing Products and Services for the Future. The book is divided into three sections, dealing with business sustainability, methodologies that can be employed organizing and developing more sustainable products and services, and a series of global case studies that highlight the progress made toward Eco-innovation and design for durability. Visit the Greenleaf Web site at www.greenleaf-publishing.com.
Please let us know about upcoming events that are of interest to the LBSC project.
The fourth annual Community Research Network Conference, “Re-Shaping the Culture of Research: People, Participation, Partnership, and Practical Tools will be held 6–8 July 2001 in Austin, Texas, at the University of Texas, Austin. The conference offers a “celebration of the rich and diverse culture of community based research at the local, regional, and international level.” It will be interactive and participant-driven, with a mixture of plenary sessions and seminar discussions. For further information, go to www.loka.org/conf2001/crn_conference_2001.htm.
Brennan, Dean and Al Zelinka. Safescape: Creating Safer, More Livable Communities through Planning Design. Chicago: Planners Press, 2001.
The co-authors examine aspects of the urban environment that influence crime and the fear of crime and recommend strategies for building—or rebuilding—communities where residents feel safe and are safe. Safescape communities empower citizens and offered varied opportunities for positive action. Their inherently safer design makes them easier and less costly to keep safe. Zelinka and Brennan focus on planning and design solutions that minimize opportunities for criminal and victim to come together. Throughout the volume they stress that these efforts will succeed only if they engage citizens, embrace diversity, and enhance a sense of community.
The work includes personal observations, case studies, and hundreds of photographs from communities across America. Safescape is a practical and inspiring guide to livelier and more inviting communities. It addresses many aspects of community building and sustainable communities from a planning and design perspective, but the essential information it provides is invaluable across a wide spectrum.
The authors have examined the information needs of a variety of groups and devised a series of concepts addressing how the physical environment can be made safer—and how a community can be strengthened—by addressing the various issues that are important to every member of a community.
Paula Gotsch, Associate Director
Global Learning, Inc.
1018 Stuyvesant Ave.
Union, NJ 07083
(908) 964 1114
Fax: (908) 964 6335
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