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Climate Preparedness Week : Blue Marble Library Blog

Massachusetts Libraries Partner with Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW)

A Surprising Path to Participating in a Sustainability Plan

by Michelle Eberle on 2021-10-15T09:32:22-04:00 | Comments

By Reni Cunningham, Reference Librarian, Concord Free Public LIbrary

While I was working as a library assistant and pursuing my MLS degree, I met a reference librarian addressing climate change through an assignment and learned about Massachusetts libraries partnering on Climate Preparedness Week and how many librarians are passionate about sustainability.

Building a Sustainability Partnership with the Town

I work in a community with a strong interest in sustainability.  Our town offices include a sustainability department. In 2019, when I requested that our library participate in Climate Preparedness Week, my Library Director introduced me to the Town Sustainability Director, and we agreed to collaborate. We had three programs and two displays with good participation. The partnership continued for Climate Preparedness Week 2020, and we created contactless events and managed to expand the number of programs and community engagement. The highlights were the Climate Ribbon Project, the asynchronous film screening of Call of the Forest, and the virtual Climate Reality Talk. 

Getting an ALA Resilient Communities Grant

In Summer 2020, I chose the ALA Resilient Communities: Libraries Respond to Climate Change grant as the focus for a course assignment. After the course ended, I asked for and received permission to apply for the grant. The Concord Free Public Library was awarded a stipend for our programs. I partnered with the Town Sustainability Director, and we brought in the Town Department of Public Works. The programs took place in the Spring of 2021; the giveaway of 150 native tree seedlings inspired by the Call of the Forest screening was highly successful.

Our Library’s Sustainability Plan!

Concord Public Free Library Sustainability PlanIn July 2020, the Concord Free Public Library and the Library Corporation announced their intention to create a sustainability plan. A Sustainability Committee, comprised of a chair and nine members, was formed to work with consultants to align the main and branch library with the town’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan. The Sustainability Committee reviewed baseline data and gathered ideas and feedback from the community to provide a foundation based on broad support. The committee members included town residents involved in climate and sustainability efforts, town boards and committees, the Town Sustainability Director, a Library Trustee and Chair of the Building Committee, the Library Corporation Director of Development, an architect for the construction project, a student from the high school, and a library liaison.  I was selected as the library liaison for the Sustainability Committee. For about ten months, the committee met weekly on Zoom and used Zoom for outreach and engagement with the community. We included idea sessions during Climate Prep Week 2020. The consultants provided expert guidance from beginning to end; all adapted to a virtual format.

Honestly, I would never have predicted becoming part of a Sustainability Committee or that the library would create a Sustainability Plan. When I read the completed Sustainability Plan (which I invite all of you to explore), I remember both my feelings of uncertainty concerning how all the input could become a cohesive whole and my amazement at seeing it all come together.

In June 2021, the Corporation Trustees approved the Concord Free Public Library Corporation Sustainability Plan. Participating in the development of the plan was both rewarding and fascinating. I am grateful for having the opportunity to participate in the planning process and look forward to the implementation!

Expanding Community Partnerships

For Climate Preparedness Week 2021, we had twelve programs and seven partners. Many of my library colleagues, representing every department, contributed in new and creative ways. New partners and community members joined existing partners in presenting many of the programs; significantly contributed to the success of our third Climate Preparedness Week!

Final Thoughts

Reflecting on sustainability in my librarian journey made several things clear. The path has not been linear. People and experiences encountered created new thoughts and opportunities, which flowed into the subsequent steps. Addressing climate change and sustainability is essential and challenging, and reflection can illuminate and celebrate progress. These reflections move me to recognize, appreciate, and applaud all those who have tirelessly worked on sustainability before me, alongside me, and will after me. I invite everyone to participate in addressing climate change in their libraries in whatever way fits at this moment, move forward at the pace and the direction that works, reach out to others, and reflect and share.

I look forward to meeting you on the sustainability journey!

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