The Cambridge (Mass.) Public Library created the Sustainable Development Information Network with the Center for Civic Network. They are providing public access to a wide range of civic and environmental information through the Internet and Geographic Information System technology.
The Glendale (Ariz.) Public Library sponsored an exterior beautification project that included filling a one-acre plot with four hundred desert plants. The library also instituted accompanying environmental education programming.
The Solon (Iowa) Library, in response to three residents’ initiatives, has established the “Prairie Talk” collection of books, periodicals, videos, research papers, and audiocassettes on rural issues and sustainable farming. Interlibrary loan makes these items available even across state lines.
The Lower East Side Public Library, New York, established collections and space for community gardens at the library in cooperation with the Green Guerrillas organization. Librarians who maintain relationships with many important individuals and groups in the community are able to direct community gardeners to people their garden groups should know.
The West Deptford (N.J.) Public Library set up the South New Jersey Environmental Information Center for Environmental Education. Hundreds of students, environmentalists, and business people visit each year for information and for assistance with complex environmental regulations and data.
The Greensboro (N.C.) Public Library instituted a Center for Neighborhood Information in their library. Assistant library director Steve Sumerford said of the center, “We believe that healthy neighborhoods are the building blocks of a great city, and we want to provide all of Greensboro’s community organizers with the resources they need to help improve their neighborhoods.”
The San Francisco Public Library houses the Wallace Stegner Environmental Center. Its mission is to educate all citizens about local and global environmental issues, stress the interconnectedness of all things, and help create contacts among people and groups with like-minded interests.
The DuPage County (Ill.) Public Library created the DuPage Environmental Awareness Center with a major focus on collection development and “eco-literacy” projects. A foundation grant enabled the center to distribute Environmental Books for Children, a fifty-page publication, to every library and school in the county.
The Rochester (N.Y.) Public Library hosted a citizens’ hearing where local environmental groups and activists discussed the environmental health effects of incinerating common plastic compounds, particularly dioxin and polyvinyl chloride. Afternoon and evening meetings were held to accommodate public access and participation.
Sustainable communities require access to information and learning for all citizens. In Curitiba, Brazil, libraries are playing an integral part in bringing such access closer to neighborhood residents. Thirty “Lighthouses of Knowledge,” modeled after the great lighthouse and library in ancient Alexandria, Egypt, have been built throughout the city. Each lighthouse contains a five-thousand-volume library on the first floor and reading rooms on the second. The compelling issue of community safety is addressed by housing a security team on the third floor. An average of twenty-five thousand library cards has been taken out at each lighthouse since their inception in 1995. In addition, Curitiba’s reputation as “the most innovative city in the world” because of its creative mass transit, antipoverty, and environmental programs has been enhanced.
In the Bay Area of northern California, the “Key to Community Project,” which includes several local library literacy programs, developed two innovative projects. A neighborhood clean-up, initiated by adult learners in the library, taught how to contact and pressure elected officials to bring trash cans into a blighted, trash-filled area. The second project involved adult learners who rewrote the state election guide in more readable language. The result was the Easy Reader Voting Guide, “designed to engage a broader public in the democratic process.” For the past five years this successful guide has been published and made available to public libraries.