New ALA program will help libraries address climate crisis

For Immediate Release
Wed, 02/05/2020


Sarah Ostman

Communications Manager

ALA Public Programs Office


Educational pilot program launched by donation from private donors; matching gifts invited through April 22

CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) announced the rollout of Resilient Communities: Libraries Respond to Climate Change, a pilot program that will help public and academic libraries engage their communities in programs and conversations that address the climate crisis. The program has been funded by a generous grant from Andrew and Carol Phelps, the parents of two library master’s students.

To expand the scope of the program, ALA invites additional contributions of any size. All donations made to ALA’s Cultural Communities Fund (CCF) through Earth Day (April 22) will be used to expand the program to additional libraries. Donate online.

“ALA extends our deepest appreciation to Carol and Andy Phelps for recognizing the potential in libraries to foster education, understanding and connection on even the most challenging topics,” said ALA President Wanda K. Brown. “Libraries are ready to step up their role in combating the misinformation and junk science that clouds public perception and hinders collective action in response to the climate crisis.”

The Phelps realized the importance of libraries in educating the public on crucial topics after their daughters made a career change to librarianship after teaching abroad. Carol Phelps said she and her family view the climate crisis as an “all-hands-on-deck” moment.

“We feel a moral obligation to take action, and we believe libraries and librarians are ideal partners to accomplish the work ahead. We wholeheartedly support libraries as centers for lifelong learning and innovation, which is needed now more than ever,” said Carol Phelps. “We are eager to get factual information about the climate crisis out to the public before it becomes too late, and to help create space in libraries for communities to mobilize for change.”

The donation comes a year after ALA adopted sustainability as a core value of librarianship, committing to the “triple bottom line” framework for sustainability recommended by the ALA Special Task Force on Sustainability. This tripod consists of practices that are environmentally sound, economically feasible and socially equitable.

“This is a pivotal time for libraries and the communities we serve,” then-ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo said after the ALA Council approved the measure in January 2019. “Libraries are helping to better the education and the lifelong learning of the communities they serve. By adding sustainability to its core values, ALA is recognizing that libraries of all types can act as catalysts and inspire future generations to reach solutions that are not only sensible but essential to sustaining life on this planet.”

The Phelps’ gift will fund public film screenings, community dialogues and related events based on local interest in 25 libraries, along with the creation of a suite of free programming resources about the climate crisis.

Participating libraries will be selected through a peer-reviewed, competitive application process managed by the ALA Public Programs Office. Further details about the opportunity and a request-for-proposals will be shared in the coming weeks. To be alerted when the application period opens, sign up for ALA’s Programming Librarian newsletter.

Project advising will be provided by representatives of ALA’s Sustainability Round Table, a professional forum for ALA members to exchange ideas and opportunities regarding sustainability in order to move toward a more equitable, healthy and economically viable society. ALA is accepting applications until Feb. 20 from library workers who are interested in serving as project advisors.

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit