At one time or another, most communities face the challenge of reestablishing stability after periods of disruption—whether human-created, natural, or some combination thereof. As civic anchors, libraries have played a critical role in meeting that challenge. The images of libraries in Ferguson and Baltimore as neighborhood beacons during the aftermath of the deaths of two young black men at the hands of police are particularly poignant. Yet those images belie the groundwork that was laid long in advance by committed librarians who listened, engaged, and prepared to respond to the needs of the communities they serve.
Louisiana has had more than its share of catastrophic weather events. The State Library of Louisiana coordinates with other libraries across the state to ensure continuity in access to essential information and vital services. This work is documented in a Lib Guide on Disaster Preparedness Planning, a clearinghouse for libraries and community members that includes everything from updates about library closings to information about emergency services, renters’ rights, and debris removal. The State Library’s work has become a model for other states and reinforces the centrality of libraries to communities impacted by a disaster.
The New York Library Association (NYLA) connects its Sustainability Initiative to the resilience of New York libraries and the communities they serve. It defines sustainable thinking as aligning “a library's core values and resources with the local and global community's right to endure, bounce back from disruption and to thrive by bringing new and energetic life to fruition through choices made in all areas of library operations and outreach.”1 To that end, the Association provides resources, mentoring and collaborative learning, along with a roadmap and sustainability benchmarks. Recently, NLYA’s Sustainability Initiative launched a certification program for public libraries. Their efforts have inspired and informed the sustainability activities of other associations, including those of the American Library Association’s own Sustainability Roundtable.
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