Going beyond Environmental Programs and Green Practices at the American Library Association

Article excerpt

Keywords:

Environmental Sustainability, Library, American Library Association

Local Identifier:

uclalib_egj_11823

Abstract:

The intent of this editorial is to provide a starting point for a more comprehensive assessment of libraries' progress towards environmental sustainability, and consequently contribute to a discourse on pathways that can enable sustainable development of libraries in the future.

Recently, green practices and sustainable solutions in public and academic libraries have grown considerably. The American Library Association (ALA) has played an important role in shaping the history of environmental activities in librarianship and providing a platform for action. This article presents the last twenty-two years of ALA's "green" units, programs, practices, initiatives, and actions, and acknowledges librarians involved in these activities. Most of the programs and actions included in the timeline were organized by the Task Force on the Environment (TFOE or the Task) - a member of the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT). The Task was a prominent entity, but not the only group, in the ALA to present program, concerns, and action about environmental sustainability. Other groups that actively promoted the concept of environmental sustainability in libraries include: Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT), Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA), Association of College and Research (ACRL), Government Documents Round Table (GODAR), Library and Information Technology (LITA), Public Library Association (PLA), and Business Reference & Services Section (BRASS).

The intent of this retrospective from 1989-2011 is to provide a starting point for a more comprehensive assessment of libraries' progress towards environmental sustainability, and consequently contribute to a discourse on pathways that can enable sustainable development of libraries in the future.

1989

Environmental Information Task as one of the Social Responsibility Round Tables was formed.

In the year of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in the Gulf of Alaska, Elizabeth Morrissett, a librarian from the Alaska Pacific University, received approval from the Action Council to form the Task Force on the Environment. According to Elizabeth, "such a task force is long overdue within SRRT and ALA, especially given the current governmental situation in the U.S."1 The first organizational meetings of the Task took place at the ALA annual conference in Dallas. The TFOE was the first official venue for ALA librarians interested in environmental issues following the lead of librarians in the Special Library Association (SLA), who by the late 1970s already worked on and discussed issues related to the dissemination of environmental information, management of natural resources, and libraries' roles in supporting environmental research.

1990

The Task Force on the Environment and its business meeting during the Annual ALA Chicago conference.

The Task's objectives were then and still are today:

* "Promote awareness of environmental issues within ALA.

* Unite librarians and information professionals for mutual benefit and support.

* Provide TFOE members with opportunities for career development, skills enhancement, and leadership experiences.

* Facilitate networking among peers and professional associates.

* Provide services, programs and publications that assist TFOE members and others in their careers, workplaces, homes and communities."2

Terry Link, an information/reference librarian from Michigan State University Library took the TFOE's helm after Elizabeth Morrissett. During the Chicago conference the members of the Task met four times to discuss its role in the ALA, programs for future conferences, and related projects. The same year the Library Journal published an article by Terry Link and members of the TFOE titled "Sources for Small Planet: Environmental Bibliographies Reflect a Question of Values. …