On Saturday, April 21, 2018, approximately 112 library trustees, friends, and staff attended Activate Sustainable Thinking for the Future of Libraries. Workshop presenters were Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Coordinator for Library Sustainability at the Mid-Hudson Library System (NY) and Matthew Bollerman, Director of the Hauppauge Public Library (NY). The multi-district workshop was hosted by the Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery County Districts.
What is sustainable thinking? Aldrich and Bollerman define it as thinking that aligns 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 a library’s operation and outreach.
The goal of sustainable thinking is to be regenerative: to bring new, energetic life.
Keeping that in mind, attendees were asked to consider two questions: “What will it look like if your library is sustainable?” and “What will it look like if your community is sustainable?” Trustees might have an easier time answering the first question, as the only way to truly answer the second is to “turn outward” and have a conversation with the community.
One tool that can help with this is a community conversation, where libraries invite 8-15 people to a two-hour, “kitchen table” conversation and engage in asking 8-10 questions about the positive future of their community and what community members envision for it.
Another tool that libraries can use is the Ask Exercise, where libraries ask community members four-simple questions: What kind of community do you want to live in? Why is that important to you? How is that different from how you see things now? What are some of the things that need to happen to create that kind of change?
The presenters gave examples of ways that libraries could begin engaging in sustainable practices:
- green cleaning;
- landscaping with native plants and rain gardens;
- offering programs that help users become self-sufficient: home repair, canning, sewing, food literacy, and coding;
- Offering programs that strengthen the community: civics classes, classes on “how to run for office.”
For help in activating sustainable thinking, Aldrich and Bollerman recommended these resources:
- Libraries Transforming Communities, a resource of the American Library Association
- The ALA Community Workbook
- The NY Library Association’s Sustainability Initiative “Sustainable Thinking News” newsletter.
The workshop was made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, Governor.
Marketing and Public Relations Specialist
Bucks County Library District