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How Public Libraries Build Sustainable Communities in the 21st Century

by Gabrielle Griffis on 2023-10-17T07:55:00-04:00 | 0 Comments

By: K.C. Williams-Cockfield

a picture of How Public Libraries Build Sustainable Communities in the 21st Century I have always had a passion for public libraries and how they change lives every day. A cursory review of programs offered by any public library illuminates how invested they are in  their communities and how their programs entertain, teach, foster networking, and encourage innovation and curiosity. In the Summer of 2021, I had a conversation with my co-editor, Dr. Bharat Mehra, about my idea that libraries were already building sustainable communities through their connected and innovative programming. Dr. Mehra’s response was, “Let's write a book!” So I put down my ideas and together we hammered out a proposal for How Public Libraries Build Sustainable Communities in the 21st Century. Our proposal was accepted by Emerald Publishing for their Advances in Librarianship series. I immediately got to work communicating with potential chapter authors about exceptional programming in their libraries and received an amazing response. Our publication, which was released on September 8, 2023, includes 22 chapters of extraordinary stories outlining innovative and life-changing public library programs around the world and illustrating how these programs align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Editing this publication has been a tremendous honor for me and so I thank each of the contributors for their amazing work and for the incredible opportunity to work with Dr. Bharat Mehra in its publication. 

Graphic of United Nations Sustainable Development GoalsThe publication is divided into five sections: theoretical foundations and research; libraries advocating for social justice; libraries mobilizing for climate change; libraries promoting economic development; and libraries nurturing positive peace. Included in each section are examples of library programs that support the section division and the identified sustainable development goals that go with it. The introduction provided at the beginning of each section provides a brief introduction to the section content, how the content aligns with the SDGs, and includes strategic key actions and terminology. 

  • Section one includes case studies on legal library programming, staff sustainability, staff development for indigenous people, programs at a public library in Indonesia, and applying ESG to modern librarianship. 
  • Section two includes case studies about the development of a black community public library in Canada, public library pride, working with the unhoused LGBTQ+ youth, family programming built around nature, outdoor libraries in Norway, and programs for older adults. 
  • Section three includes case studies about library collaborations for climate change, repair events in libraries, and the picturebook library in Baramsup, Korea. 
  • Section four includes case studies about public libraries as key knowledge infrastructure, public health partners in the opioid crisis, and public libraries in affordable housing. 
  • Section five includes case studies about public libraries as sustainability leaders, social work collaborators, the intersection of public libraries and public health, public libraries' contribution to dementia-friendly communities, and library programs for refugees and newcomers. 

Public Libraries in the U.S. are just now beginning to align programming with the SDGs. If you are looking for ideas on how to engage the community and support the SDGs with library programming, then I highly recommend this publication.

For any questions or additional information, please contact:

Kaurri C. Williams-Cockfield

Dr. Bharat Mehra 

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