LBSC Newsletter #5: May 2001

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The ALA Annual Conference is almost upon us, and with this newsletter we’ll remind you of the events planned for the Libraries Build Sustainable Communities project.

On Saturday, 16 June 2001, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Essex Room of the Westin Hotel St. Francis, 335 Powell St., the basic LBSC workshop will be presented to conference participants. Those of you interested in a refresher are welcome to attend.

On Sunday, 17 June 2001, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the California East/West Room of the Westin Hotel St. Francis, 335 Powell St., San Francisco, there will be a panel discussion of libraries and sustainability titled “Sustainable Communities: Fostering Dialogue @ your library TM.” Featured panelists will be Jeanne Clinton, Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Oakland, California; Marilyn Hempel, Executive Director of the Population Coalition; Renée Vaillancourt, library consultant and Feature Editor of Public Libraries magazine, the journal of the Public Library Association. Sarah Ann Long, Immediate Past President, American Library Association, will serve as the panel moderator. This panel promises to be an interesting discussion of libraries and their role in sustainability education and information dissemination. Plan on attending—and tell your friends!

On Monday, 18 June 2001, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Salons 10 and 11 of the Marriott Hotel San Francisco, 55 Fourth St., there will be a meeting of the LBSC committee and sustainable communities trainers. This will be an opportunity to learn what has been happening “in the field,” and what remains to be accomplished for the duration of this grant project. Please plan to attend.

We hope to print an issue of the LBSC newsletter in late June 2001, providing a summary of what transpired at the conference and where we’re going. But as you know, the best-laid plans sometimes go awry, so we might take a hiatus in June, and return in early July 2001 with a new issue containing the latest news.

Comments? Send them to Paula Gotsch, Associate Director, Global Learning, Inc., at or David Guyer, Project Coordinator, American Library Association, at Enjoy the newsletter.


From the Field
Teen Alert
For Younger People
Web Sites
Notes from the International Front
Call for Submissions
Local Initiatives
Upcoming Events
Feedback Form

   From the Field

Jonathan Betz-Zall Seattle, Washington, reports on the Libraries Build Sustainable Communities program presented at the Washington Library Association’s annual conference, Spokane, 5 April 2001

This program was based very closely on the curriculum presented at the Libraries Build Sustainable Communities preconference at the American Library Association Annual conference in July 2000. Thirty-eight people attended. Almost all of them were from public libraries, but they were evenly divided among urban, suburban, and rural (self-defined “small town”) libraries.

In the first half of the program participants played “Postcards from Home.” Participants grouped themselves around each of the postcards and discussed the desirable and undesirable qualities of each place, any changes they would like to see, and actions they would take to preserve or improve it. Each group then reported to the larger group one change they would like to see happen to each place depicted in the postcards. After reading the handout Building Sustainable Communities: The Chattanooga Story, which describes successful community building in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the group discussed programs and projects in their communities that are improving the quality of life and creating more sustainable communities.

Generally, the ideas that provoked the most discussion were the ones designated “controversial,” which included:

  • provide public meeting space;
  • provide access to information;
  • provide book lists;
  • provide “neutral ground”;
  • provide public information: distribution and posting;
  • provide active education of the community;
  • partner with other organizations;
  • create access to solitude; and
  • co-sponsor other events and services (e.g. commuter board).

The basic concern for all of these was the degree to which libraries can advocate for positions on particular issues, as opposed to making information available about all positions on those issues. Participants worried about turning away users through too strong stances on issues such as land use planning, but also about libraries’ ability to act to maintain the quality of life in our communities. Even such “traditional” services as book lists and places of solitude generated discussion on this basis. In this short time period the group could not reach consensus on a list of suggestions.

But participants appeared to have a well-honed grasp of the nuances of local library politics that would set the parameters for their actions. Most remarkable and heartening to me was the strong grasp of the connection between environmental concerns and social equity, as evidenced by the expression of support for services to immigrants and ethnic groups.

To conclude the program with some thought to implementing some of these ideas, participants practiced how they would report on this program to their library director. They formed pairs, each person taking a turn playing reporter. Unfortunately, there was insufficient time to allow any of the pairs to report to the group, so I don’t know how well the discussions prepared the participants for their actual return home.

Generally participants thought that the very large topic of sustainability required more time to treat effectively. Specific suggestions included shortening the “Postcards” exercise and focusing more on practical ideas for libraries to carry out.

I intend to do a follow-up program in 2002, incorporating these suggestions, among others, at the joint conference of the Washington and Oregon Library Associations, which will be held in Portland, Oregon.

Andrea Thorpe, Library Director, Richards Free Library, Newport, New Hampshire, reporting on Libraries Build Sustainable Communities in Connecticut

I was asked to present Libraries Build Sustainable Communities workshop as a two-and-a-half-hour preconference before the Connecticut Library Association’s annual conference in early April. I was glad to have everything ready to go. The morning preconference ran late, which left me with about fifteen minutes to set the room up, and the morning attendees with little time for lunch.

I opened by reading from a Donella Meadows’ column about Sustainable Wonders of the World, which appeared in the March/April 2000 issue of Timeline. I then went around the room and had people introduce themselves. Participants were predominantly public librarians from communities ranging from small towns to major cities. Many came because they were embarking on library expansion projects.

After going through the objectives and stressing that I wasn’t there to lecture but to facilitate conversation, I urged the participants to walk around the room and find the “Postcard from Home” that resonated with them. All but two of the pictures drew groups. One participant standing alone at a postcard asked the group if anyone wanted to join her to talk about the picture she selected. About thirty minutes into the workshop, more people coming from lunch joined us enlarging the discussion. The post card activity encouraged a lot of discussion about people in the communities pictured on the cards.

During the break I handed out the ecological footprint. I was interested to see that many people got out their calculators and were busily figuring out their impact on the earth’s resources.

After the break, we brainstormed how libraries can become involved in local sustainability efforts. I was surprised at the suggestions when we grouped the ideas. Whenever I talk about sustainability in my rural state, people think I am talking about the environment. When workshop participants looked at the ideas written on the flip chart pages that covered the wall that afternoon, we discovered that more than 75 percent of the ideas dealt with equity, 20 percent with the environment, and only 5 percent with the economy. Librarians in Connecticut understand that sustainability means more than just addressing environmental issues.

For the last part of the workshop I used the extension activity, the “Community Inventory Role Play.” In the discussion afterwards, librarians voiced several concerns: that libraries should not advocate for issues, and that they do not have enough time or enough staff to take on another role in their communities. These concerns were good starting points for a discussion of what libraries can do within those parameters, and some librarians argued that by becoming part of the discussion the library can benefit by playing a key role in community development.

I read all the suggestions from “From the Field” in the newsletter and found them very helpful. There are three things I would change when doing this workshop again. I would hand out the materials at the beginning of the workshop. I would use the sustainable stool overhead at the very beginning of the workshop and leave it up to refer to throughout the workshop. I would make sure that not only is the room comfortable and restroom location noted, but that everyone was fed.

In thinking about sustainability after the workshop and what librarians can do with little time and small staffs, I was reminded that I can use this information and training to advocate for sustainable development in my community area by talking to various local groups. My next presentation will be at the local Rotary Club with the overhead projector and the ecological footprint exercise.

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   Teen Alert

For those of you who may have a large teen constituency, they might be interested in knowing that Kevin Richardson of the singing group Backstreet Boys has lately been doing a lot to promote the color green, as in a greener and cleaner earth. Last December, Richardson, 29, founded Just Within Reach (JWR): An Earth Foundation. The mission of JWR is to educate individuals and companies can help create a cleaner environment.

While in Los Angeles recently for a Backstreet Boys appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Richardson explained why forming JWR was so important to him. “There are poisons in the air that we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink, and some of those toxins build up in your body and never leave. It’s time to clean up. We need to stop putting money and profit above common sense and health.”

Richardson is encouraging fans to help the environment. Members of the Sierra Club environmental group are setting up booths at some Backstreet Boys concerts to answer questions and show people how to get involved. Richardson also is considering an educational video with wide distribution.

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   For Younger People

Dennis Hayes, who started EarthDay in 1970, says kids are often the best environmentalists because they just don't give up. “The best thing about being young is you don't know what can't be done,” he says.

Hayes said sometimes kids don't know where to start because their parents make a lot of the big family decisions that affect the environment—for instance, what kind of car to buy. But he noted that houses and schools emit more carbon dioxide than cars do, and that's where kids can make a difference. Kids can persuade their parents to “install time-of-day thermostats that regulate the temperature in their home, or get them to install super-efficient lights,” Hayes says.

Hayes added that over the years a number of students have done studies of their schools’energy systems. They get a teacher to sponsor them and show the administration how a more efficient system saves the school money. Within a year or two the school is saving money and can use the savings for better books, audio-visual equipment, or athletic equipment. For more information on this case, go to

Kids who want to look at their own part of the equation can begin to change what they eat, environmentalists say. Danielle Nierenberg, a researcher with the Worldwatch Institute, says diets high in meat consumption are harder on the environment because it takes larger amounts of water, pesticides, and fertilizers to create grain for livestock to eat. Worldwatch says it takes 7,000 kilograms of water to produce one kilogram of beef, but only 500 liters of water to produce one kilogram of potatoes, 900 liters for wheat and alfalfa, and 1,400 liters for corn. For more information on the environment, please go to

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   Web Sites

If you see other sites of interest to the sustainable communities group, please forward them and they’ll be published in future issues of the newsletter. “challenges individuals and organizations to calculate the size of their own carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint and pledge to reduce it” by taking one or more actions outlined on the site. Visitors to the site can purchase climate-friendly products online, sign up for green energy, learn about energy efficiency tips for their home and office, send letters to policymakers, and read the latest climate change news. To read more, visit the Web site for the World Resources Institute at

The Planet Maintenance and Repair Guide and the Planet Repair Web site were launched by the Academy for Educational Development based in Washington, D.C. The theme of the eighty-one-page youth activity handbook handbook and the Web site is environmental health threats. Youth can become more aware of water conservation, air pollution, and chemical exposure issues. Resources, tools, and contact information needed to complete each activity are also listed. For more information, go to

The President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) honors students and their sponsors who carry out projects in their communities to improve the environment. Although the national winners this year were honored at the White House, all students and groups that enter the program receive certificates recognizing their efforts. In addition, regional winners are honored at a yearly ceremony. The program is almost thirty years old. Projects are due each year by 31 July. If you are interested in PEYA 2001, please go to

The JoMiJo Foundation supports grassroots projects that improve the quality of people’s lives or preserves the earth’s environment. In 2000, the foundation awarded $63,000 in twenty-one grants. Grants range in size from $3,000 to $5,000. For more information, go to

Volume 3 of Sprawl Watch, published in April 2001, addresses issues such as the similarities between cities that gained or lost population, or remained relatively stable, as a result of the last census, growth management plans adopted in several cities across the country, innovative transit planning, urban redevelopment, historic preservation and Main Street projects, and the connection public health officials are drawing between America’s huge spike in obesity and our sprawling land use patterns. For more information, go to

The Alliance to Save Energy offers an extensive selection of tips on how to invest in energy-efficient improvements in homes and, at the same time, reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The alliance, based in Washington, D.C., is a coalition of business, government, environmental, and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy worldwide. To obtain a copy of the free booklet “Powersmart: Easy Tips to Save Money and the Planet,” call 1-888-878-3256. You can also preview an animated version on the Alliance’s Web site at

In a recent column, author Barbara Kingsolver offered a few suggestions for action individuals can take to register their thoughts on an array of environmental issues, including protecting the Arctic National Refuge, Greater Yellowstone, the Macal Rainforest of Costa Rica, and the Red Rock Wilderness of Utah. For more information, go to Kingsolver writes that “once registered, the National Resources Defense Council will send you E-mail alerts (while also respecting your privacy) every so often to ask for your participation in a fax or E-mail campaign.”

Plug unseen leaks. Idle or turned off devices such as televisions, VCRs, and microwaves continue to consume energy when turned off. When purchasing new appliances, look for the Energy Star label. This symbol indicates significantly less energy is used when the appliance is on standby mode. For more information, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site at

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   Notes from the International Front

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently applauded an announcement by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights that “everyone has the right to live in a world free from toxic pollution and environmental degradation.” The announcement, made at the conclusion of the commission’s annual meeting in Geneva on 27 April 2001, is the first time the commission has addressed the links between the environment and human rights. Mary Robinson, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director, were invited to organize an international seminar to explore how environmental and human rights principles can be strengthened. In his comments lauding the action Toepfer said, “Environmental conditions clearly help to determine the extent to which people enjoy their basic rights to life, health, adequate food, and housing, and traditional livelihood and culture.” He added that, “it is time to recognize that those who pollute or destroy the natural environment are not just committing a crime against nature, but are violating human rights, as well.”

The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries is an electronic journal focusing on an array of international issues. Volume four presents a special edition on telecenters illustratings the role of knowledge-based community information centers in developing countries. For more information, go to the Web site at

EngenderHealth is a nonprofit organization working internationally and in the United States to support and strengthen healthcare services, particularly those needed by women, the largest worldwide consumers of health care. In Uganda, EngenderHealth has been working with experts from different regions of the country representing public and private institutions in reproductive health, human rights, youth issues, journalism, law, and research. For more information, go to the Web site at was established for teachers and returning Peace Corps Volunteers. Its primary focus is to offer returned Corps volunteers the ability to keep in touch with events in their country of service and as an educational resource in the classroom.

Ocean breakers along Scotland’s coast have just been harnessed to provide a breakthrough technology for generating electricity. The world’s first commercial wave-power plant, on the island of Islay, produces electricity for four hundred homes and is already being studied by other EU countries. Ironically, wave power is produced not by water but by the air currents that are trapped and then pushed around by the turbulent waters. The Scottish generating facility is twenty-five yards wide, and though it’s not overly beautiful (it looks like a bunker), it’s not hideous or polluting, either. The facility cost $1.6 million to build, but representatives from its developer, Wavelength, say they learned a lot—the next one should cost half as much.— Marilyn Berlin Small, writing in the May/June 2001 issue of Sierra

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Kevin Gallagher, Neva R. Goodwin, Jonathan Harris, and Timothy Wise, eds. , A Survey of Sustainable Development (Washington, D.C.: Island Pr., 2001).

Many of you have raised the issue that the term “sustainability” is one that is used increasingly often, but it is rarely defined and perhaps even less understood. This newly published (April 2001) compendium addresses that problem by “bringing together the most important works on sustainable human and economic development. It offers a broad overview of the subject, and gives the reader a quick and thorough guide to this highly diffuse topic.”

The volume offers ten sections on such topics as: economic and social dimensions of sustainable development; the north/south balance; population and demographic transition; agriculture and renewable resources; energy and materials use; globalization and corporate responsibility; and local and national strategies. Each section is introduced by one of the volume editors, who provides an overview of the subject and a summary of the mainstream literature, followed by a two- or three-page abstract of the most important articles or book chapters on the topic.

The authors are researchers with the Global Development and Environment Institute and Tufts University;

Laurie-Anne Bosselaar, ed., Urban Nature: Poems about Wildlife in the City (Minneapolis, Minn.: Milkweed Editions, 2000).

“Over the centuries, the city has often been considered separate from the natural world—once as a stay against nature, more recently as a threat to it. Now, as an anthology entitled Urban Nature illustrates, something new is emerging. As urbanologists absorb the insights of ecology, and nature’s stewards remember that the city is itself a treasure worthy of care, we arrive at a more nuanced understanding of the human city.” (From the introduction by Emily Hiestand.)

Jeremy Leggett, The Carbon War: Global Warming and the End of the Oil Era (New York: Routledge, 2001).

“Excessive burning of oil, gas, and coal is raising our planet’s thermostat to unacceptable levels—a problem that has already resulted in increased natural catastrophes: storms, droughts, and fires. Yet big oil companies have repeatedly hijacked efforts to slow global carbon emissions.

“With the grace of a novelist and the precision of a scientist, Leggett recounts his maddening interactions with scientific councils, international governmental meetings, and business leaders. Still, despite the government’s backpedaling on eco-promises, the media’s laziness, and fossil fuel company rhetoric, Leggett argues that the transition to solar energy is coming.

The Carbon War is a riveting read and a critical contribution to the fight for sustainable energy.” (From the publisher.)

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   Call for Submissions

The second annual Public Libraries theme issue, scheduled for January/February 2002, will focus on international public librarianship. Scheduled for release after the 2001 IFLA conference in Boston, this issue will explore similarities and differences in public librarianship around the world. Librarians who have lived or worked abroad, including those in Canada and Mexico, and those with international expertise, are invited to submit manuscripts to be considered for this issue. See Public Libraries’ “Instructions to Authors” in the March/April 2001 issue or at for length, format, and submission guidelines. Manuscripts must be received by 1 August 2001 in order to be considered for this special issue. Please contact the feature editor at for more information.

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   Local Initiatives

Scientists at the University of Florida recently discovered that a common fern found in the southeastern United States and California has the capacity to soak up arsenic from soil without keeling over dead. Pteris vittata, or brake fern, could potentially be used to clean up the poison, which is both naturally occurring in soil and unnaturally present in farm chemicals, wood preservatives, and other products. Once the plant pulls the arsenic from the ground and into its leaves, it can be harvested and safely disposed of. Arsenic, which often leaches into groundwater, threatens many communities in the United States and worldwide.

Studies show that people who drink arsenic-contaminated water over long periods run a higher risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer.— Marilyn Berlin Small, writing in the May/June 2001 issue of Sierra

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   Upcoming Events

Please let us know about upcoming events that are of interest to the LBSC project.

The Midwest Working Landscapes Conference will be held 8–10 November 2001 at the Lake Lawn Resort in Delevan, Wisconsin. The goal of the conference is to create a dialogue on economic and environmental sustainability for Midwest working landscapes. The conference will explore practices and policies that promote land-based economic activity to sustain families, communities, and ecosystems while also providing multiple benefits to society. For more information on this conference, or to receive registration materials, please contact Marin Bryne at

“Bill Moyers Reports: Earth on the Edge” showcases new data depicting the scale of human impact on the planet’s life support systems. The two-hour broadcast explores one of the most important questions of the new century: What is happening to earth’s capacity to support nature and civilization? The program will broadcast Tuesday, 19 June 2001, at 8 p.m. EST, with a related Web site launch date of 1 June 2001. For additional information, go to

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   Feedback: LBSC Newsletter #5

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Please send future issues of this newsletter to the following individuals:

Paula Gotsch, Associate Director
Global Learning, Inc.
1018 Stuyvesant Ave.
Union, NJ 07083
(908) 964 1114
Fax: (908) 964 6335

Visit the NJ Sustainable Schools Network Web site at

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