Commentary

Environmental Sustainability and Libraries

How to get libraries involved in our climate movement...

Allies and Partners
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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest educational opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

If we wish to continue providing access to resources and information to subsequent generations, libraries must recognize our responsibility in promoting and practicing environmental sustainability. At the Newburyport Public Library, we integrate the principles of environmental stewardship into our daily activities and the experiences we offer to the public. Our lighting system is motion-activated to mitigate the use of unnecessary electricity. Additionally, our computers are set to timers that provide power only during the hours in which the library is open. These automated technologies allow us to conserve energy without negatively impacting a patron’s experience.

We are also grateful to have a librarian trained in how to mend damaged books to lengthen their shelf life. It would be logical to assume that a book that has been separated from its binding is no longer in acceptable condition to circulate, but our librarian can reattach bindings, affix errant pages, and perform other mending tasks that preserve our collection. Our semi-annual book sale is another opportunity to extend the lives of books in lieu of discarding them. Every March and October, the Friends of the Library graciously host the sale that rehomes hundreds of donated items and saves them from the trash bin.  It is truly a community event with the proceeds supporting the Friends group and the library itself.

When building our curriculum, our Programming Librarian pays special attention to events that educate patrons on local environmental issues. In August, we hosted a virtual event that discussed practical tips on how to make children’s birthday parties and their school lunches eco-friendly and low waste. We also hosted a program where an education and policy specialist from Merrimack River Watershed Council reviewed how sewage pollution is affecting the Merrimack River and offered suggestions on how community members can take action to help resolve the issue. In July, the Community Science and Coastal Resilience Manager for Mass Audubon presented a discussion on the effects of climate change and how to mitigate and reverse them. As institutions that support self-directed education, we strive to build a curriculum that brings awareness to issues that impact the local environment.

For further opportunities to research environmental stewardship, patrons are encouraged to peruse our online catalog and borrow items of interest. Newburyport is a member of the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium which allows our patrons to access resources from a network comprised of 37 partnered libraries. We also provide access to the Gale OneFile: Environmental Studies and Policy database that offers authoritative content from national and
global publications to enhance one’s learning journey.

Regardless of how our patrons choose to engage our resources, we hope they see value in our efforts to support sustainability and environmental stewardship. We will continue to seek input from our users to strengthen our relationship and reflect the issues and concerns that impact our dedicated community. ACES Youth Corps team members encourage you to take advantage of all the resources about environmental sustainability in our libraries. Please share any thoughts about other opportunities to benefit the health of our planet and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

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