The American Library Association (ALA) and Global Learning Inc. of New Jersey entered into a two-year grant partnership, Libraries Build Sustainable Communities, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This partnership is operating with an ALA Libraries Build Sustainable Communities (LBSC) committee and three project staff. The overarching goal of the program is to "educate the membership of the ALA, and subsequently the library-going public, about the linkages between sustainability issues for local communities and sustainability issues for the global community." The focus on libraries building community through sustainability was a component of ALA President (1999–2000) Sarah Ann Long's presidential year theme, "Libraries Build Community."
Here is a brief summary of the first year of the ALA/Global Learning grant and its products:
November 1999 through May 2000
An insert, "Decide Tomorrow Today-Libraries Build Sustainable Communities," was created for insertion into the June/July 2000 issue of American Libraries. A print run of 75,000 copies allowed for wide distribution of the insert to those who saw it and wanted more of the publication for their libraries.
November 1999 through July 2000
Creation of the components of the "Workshop-in-a-Box" to be distributed to participants at the July 7, 2000, preconference. The materials included:
- A tip sheet outlining various resources libraries can use to promote both local and global sustainability.
- A step-by-step workbook outlining how to conduct the training sessions at the state level.
- Role-playing modules addressing the issue of sustainability at the local level that included librarians and their role in the larger community, addressing the issue of the library's "place at the table."
- An "Ecological Footprint" calculator worksheet as an extension activity to estimate an individual's impact on the environment.
- A "Postcards from Home" exercise, where participants evaluated a photograph with an accompanying explanation and offered reactions and suggestions addressing the concepts of sustainability.
- Numerous handouts offering guidance on sustainability issues, including: "Coming to Terms with Sustainability," "Pathways to Community Sustainability," "Sustainable Communities-From Vision to Action," "Sustainable Communities-Guide to Grassroots Activists," "Huh?" (sustainability from a business perspective).
- "30 Things Libraries Can Do To Build Sustainable Communities," and "Sustainable Libraries: Teaching Environmental Responsibility to Communities."
- A "Sustainable Communities" Web site with many of the print resources available in an electronic form.
The grant sought to recruit one hundred state-based trainers representing all fifty states for the preconference. The preconference was well attended by seventy-four individuals from thirty-six states, the District of Columbia, and Canada; volunteers offered to provide workshops at the fourteen missing states. Participant evaluations indicated a high level of enthusiasm and commitment to conducting the workshop at the state level. Participants also indicated the speakers and materials did a superior job of conveying and relating the concepts of sustainability and the role of libraries in fostering awareness of it. Finally, participants liked the workshop's flexibility in offering an opportunity to expand its basic concepts by using extension activities geared toward a particular sustainability scenario or a particular geographic region.
Continuing the momentum, July 2000 through July 2001
- Creation of an electronic discussion list for the trainers and LBSC project team (in place).
- An electronic newsletter featuring connections between sustainability issues for local communities and sustainability issues for the global community (ongoing).
- Expansion of the Sustainable Communities Web site (ongoing).
- An entire issue of Public Libraries (January/February 2001) devoted to sustainability (this issue's focus was the idea of Public Libraries editor Renee Vaillancourt, who attended the preconference and is enthusiastic about sustainability issues).
- State-based workshops (ongoing-several have already been conducted and were enthusiastically received).
- A meeting of the LBSC project team and state based trainers at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in January 2001 (in progress).
- Creation of press releases and other articles of interest in maintaining visibility of the program (ongoing).
- Summary of the grant program and its effectiveness (to be developed, July 2001).
Issues of sustainability will become more topical and newsworthy as the world's finite resources are consumed at an ever-increasing pace and as more second- and third-world nations attempt to adopt the lifestyles of their Western counterparts. Because this issue will continue to loom large, this project, one that introduces concepts of sustainability to libraries and librarians, has the potential for far-reaching impacts on knowledge and awareness of the critical issues facing the global community relative to finite resources and the cumulative impacts of their ongoing depletion. By introducing concepts of sustainability at the local level, the library becomes a major information venue for lively discussion, sober debate, and community action. Visit your library—today.
Libraries Build Sustainable Communities
American Library Association