Sustainability in the Library

I was stuck trying to come up with a topic for my April post, so I reached out to my library school friends to see if they had any topics that they’d like to read about on HLS. My friend Hannah suggested that I write about Earth Day since at the time I asked, it was still forthcoming.

Though Earth Day is over by the time you’re reading this post, the need for environmental awareness and environmentalism doesn’t go away. Libraries can play an important role in embracing green technologies, conveying information about sustainability to the public, nurturing the next generation of environmentally-conscious individuals. In addition, LIS students should be thinking about sustainability in our future careers during our coursework and try to start meaningful conversations with our professors and peers when the chance arises in our classes.

I’m not an expert on environmentalism or sustainability by any means, but here are some thoughts that I wanted to share about ways our field can work towards a better future for our planet.

Libraries can embrace sustainability.

There are myriad ways in which libraries can embrace sustainability. One way is by making library buildings more sustainable. The ALA has a LibGuide about green libraries and ways to increase sustainability. The information in this LibGuide can be used by those looking to make an older library building more environmentally-friendly, or buy those who may have the opportunity to work sustainability into a renovation or into a new building project.

Libraries can also embrace sustainability by helping to communicate information about sustainability and environmentalism to their patrons. One simple way to do this is through displays of materials in the library relating to these topics. Libraries may also be able to use digital displays and social media to promote other information related to sustainability. Partnerships with outside organizations may offer another way to communicate with patrons about sustainability.  

Find support from fellow librarians.

If there’s one thing I’ve had drilled into my head during library school, it’s that librarianship is a collaborative profession. If you get stuck when it comes to getting started with sustainability or you want to embrace a new initiative but don’t quite feel like you have the expertise, reach out to others in the profession who you know are passionate about the topic. For example, I never would have settled on this topic without the urging of one of my classmates.

ALA has a sustainability round table that was created expressly for the purpose of exchanging ideas and information about sustainability within the library profession. They even maintain a library of resources relating to library sustainability that might be a great place to start.

Start small and start simple.

I want to be a youth services librarian, and I think youth services is a great place to start incorporating sustainability practices and information sharing. If we want young people to grow up to be conscientious citizens of the earth, we need to do our part in helping them engage with the environment and sustainability starting at a young age. The library I’m working at did a week’s worth of online activities for Earth Day this year that encouraged kids to engage with both sustainability and the natural world. The programs we do don’t have to be big and showy, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even the little things can help encourage young people to take note of the world around them and why it’s important to take care of it.

My classmate, Hannah, who suggested I look into this topic created a LibGuide for our Information Sources and Services course last fall about environmentalism for kids that has some great resources if this is a topic that you’re interested in!

If you’ve embraced sustainability in a library you work in, or have ideas for sustainability and environmentalism in our field I’d love to hear them in the comments. Happy belated Earth Day!

Macy Davis is a second-year student at Simmons University in the MA in Children’s Literature/MS in Library and Information Sciences dual degree program. She appreciates the friends that library school has brought into her life. You can find her on Twitter @bookishlybright or through her personal blog.

Featured image from

5 replies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s