FREE Webinar: Finding Government Data on the Environment

Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian presents … Finding Government Data on the Environment
The Government Resources Section of the North Carolina Library Association welcomes you to a series of webinars designed to help us all do better reference work by increasing our familiarity with government information resources, and by discovering the best strategies for navigating them.
Ann Marshall has eleven years of experience as an academic librarian and was most recently the subject liaison to the political science department at the University of Rochester. She has provided computer training and support to upstate rural public libraries as part of a Gates Foundation grant. She is co-author of “What an Experience: Library Staff Participation in Ethnographic Research” and is a former Chair of the Law and Political Science Section (LPSS) of ACRL.
Interest in sustainability has grown exponentially at colleges and universities, such that a 2009 New York Times articles announced, “Sustainability Field Booms on Campus,” noting growth at both liberal arts institutions and at community colleges. This session focuses on finding governmental data relevant to research on sustainability, and will examine tools provided by agencies such as the EPA, Department of Energy, and some selected international sources. In addition, the session will suggest strategies for answering a data question, especially when its unclear where to begin or when other sources have been exhausted. The session is offered by Ann Marshall, a former political science librarian at the University of Rochester.
We will meet together for Session #46, online on April 29 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (Eastern). Please RSVP for the Session by April 29 by 9:00 am using this link:

Technical requirements: We will be using collaborative software called Blackboard Collaborate. It requires that you be able to download Java onto your computer, but you do not need any special software. After you RSVP, we will send you a link that you can use to test the software. If you have any questions, please contact Lynda Kellam ( You do not need a microphone as a chat system is available in the software, but you do need speakers or headphones.

The session will be recorded and made available after the live session, linked from the NCLA GRS web page (

Book Review (Part 4/4): Ecology, Economy, Equity

Henk_300Ecology, Economy and Equity Book, Part III: Sustainable Librarianship in Practice has four sections and a lot of challenges for librarians and a section worth slowly reading, discussing and considering how to act on these ideas. The first section deals with the challenges of technology and corporate power in the library. Henk clearly states that much of the suggestions in the earlier sections are easier to accomplish than this last part where we are looking at larger system,  power issues and often things indirectly related to people’s daily lives – often overlooked are the consequences or important results of these decisions. In this section she dives into the digital library and Open Access movement to combat the expensive, exclusive, publishing behemoths (three publishing companies own 42% of all journals now!). The idea of enclosure of information is critical to understand – previously shared resources, not at prohibited costs with  barriers to access.   A simple example starts with a public university researcher, writing up their results for tenure and to share or advance their discipline, paying a commercial entity to publish it, and then the same university having to pay for access to the material. Henk also notes from the research this notion of disposable people – technological and economic barriers to access the information that is needed and should be readily available for use. An example she gives is the high toll libraries have to pay ongoing to access electronic materials from publishers on an ongoing basis – materials in the past were previously owned (perhaps in paper format). She also notes the shift from library control to these webscale ILS and discovery systems where we turn over our control and access. Companies can decide they do not want to work with a competitor and the result is we (our uses) do not get access to key journals since our ILS is not friendly with another vendor. Libraries are loosing our value added capabilities and now more of a marketer and trainer of vendor products.

The next section is on curbing corporate power. The power imbalances she already covered leds us to this section where Henk offers some ideas and considerations on how to curb this power. Awareness is a start and advocacy is important. We need to work with these companies but can we look at the “good guys” in publishing, those with more sustainable practices or the smaller companies to support. Henk offers two paths – directly confronting vendors or working through our political system, through advocacy and action; the second path is building a new system through open access or open source projects. Mandy supplies some good steps for advocacy through library organizations, nonviolent actions, and boycott ideas, giving some well known examples so check out this part of the book for more details.

The third section is on resolving the technology dilemma. Starting out she comments on what always bugs me, why aren’t people in the world paying attention to this global critical issues of climate change. Using research she explains the various forms of denial and “it’s not pc to discuss” syndrome especially found in the US. With lots of researched facts and information, she offers ideas on what we can do through library advocacy, writing and presenting on the topic, pushing our large library organizations to make some real changes. I believe we are slowly moving ahead in this area – the new Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) of ALA founded in 2013 as one such step.

The last section is on the visioning of the sustainable library. Librarians tend to be practical in nature, but creating a new vision is something we should be doing, dreaming of possibilities and actions we could take and voicing this publicly, not hiding behind “its out of my control.” I believe this is the crux of the book as a whole.

Conclusion/Action Items: This book allowed me to consider ideas I had not thought of, actions we as librarians could take, questions to start asking, processes and workflows to rethink. This book would be the perfect read for a group of librarians or for a workshops or conference or sustainability committee to share, discuss and act upon. I hope my blog posting on the content I found in the book, helps continue the dialogue and more librarians will find this book, read it and encourage others to do the same.

Read the entire REVIEW: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Book Review (Part 3/4): Ecology, Economy, Equity

Henk_300Ecology, Economy, and Equality Book Part II: Building the Sustainable Library offers 3 parts – ecology, economy and equality. Each part offers a basic overview of information on what this concept means and what libraries can do in this area, linking to a step in her assessment tool for each part. The first part on ecology discusses decarbonizing in two key areas for libraries to consider: electricity and transportation. Understanding what processes your library does that generates carbon and how much carbon, are first steps. Henk offers how to do an energy audit for your library, with ideas on understanding your processes and workflows as well as suggestions on rethinking lighting, heating, cooling, computers, and printers. Her table on lighting and energy saving on page 42 is really useful! For transportation she offers a lot of ideas for both your employees and patrons. For employees some good suggestions include flexible work hours to allow them to take public transportation, offering telecommuting options, setting up places to store bike stuff to encourage biking to work. For patrons I loved the idea of providing, on your library website, how to get to the library from various public transportation options and keep these schedules in mind when offering programs and workshops so its easy to encourage people not to drive. Bike racks and lighted passageways are other important patron options. This Ecology sections ends with suggestions on solid waste, recycling, e-waste, water usage (the number one use of water in libraries is landscaping!), and buying green.

The second part on economy tackles the concept that healthy library budgets are critical to sustainability success. These days expenses are up and budget are constantly down. The Sustainability Assessment for this section looks at the local level and overall information system changes. Diversifying funding sources (grants donors, friends) and analyzing the collection (like cost per use) are key components to consider. Henk also discusses the critical topic of long-term solutions such as supporting open access initiatives (rather than purchases overpriced materials), wise licensing decisions (learning better negotiating skills), and consortia buy-ins (save money buy sharing). Supporting the local economy whenever possible means buying local and using local vendors and will support the local economy.

The last part is on equity. Mandy discusses equity in both intergenerational – equity between generations – and intragenerational – equity between the current generations – terms. Decisions we make DO affect others both today and those in the future. She looks at equity in three areas: marginalized patrons, the library become a better employer, and changes in collection decisions. Again using her assessment tool, she offers suggestions on how to research and dive into these three areas. Reaching marginalized patrons is something everyone can do, but the second one “being a better employers” might be completely limited for some libraries. The last area in analyzing our collection decisions involves actions with protecting fair use, examining license agreements, finding new models for electronic books and right of the first sale, and protecting the right to read for all patrons.

For more information, you’ll have to get the book!

Book Review (Part 2/4): Ecology, Economy, Equity

Henk_300Ecology, Economy and Equity Book, Part 1: Transitioning to Sustainability in the Library, offers 3 sections. The first section dives into the three 3 Es (ecology, economy and equality) and how they pertain to librarianship. After giving a brief overview of the basic concepts of climate change, with personal anecdotes, she states that their realities we are facing “require librarians to develop new practices in our collection building and programming as well as a new understanding of the natural world and our relationship to it. (page 5)  Libraries provide access to information for our communities and librarians define their role and responsibility in helping citizens become more information literate and life long learners. Only when citizens who are educated enough to understand this immediate global threat, can sort through emotional responses to propaganda and have access high quality collections with well-trained librarians, will real societal change occur. Mandy points out the digital library shift, its effect on the environment (ex: disposing of electronic devices, the carbon footprint of the servers for our electronic resources), the exploitative labor systems, the consolidation of the publishing industry, the enclosure of the information commons, and outdated copyright/fair use laws. All issues we as librarians are facing and can stand up to!  The first part concludes with a key point that we as librarians need to review our existing operations and library ethos to bring forth sustainability as an integral piece of our fundamental values.

The second section of Part 1, on making the case for sustainability, Henk aligns our overall general library values with those of sustainability. Value of Democracy: libraries exist because our society believe in self governance and libraries provide access to information to help citizens self govern. This value of democracy also incorporates the concept of equality – allowing every citizen access to the information they seek. Intellectual freedom and literacy also fall in this value area. Value of Scholarship: rational objective scholarship drives how we organize information and assist people to use it. Libraries have a commitment to educating and preserving knowledge, so users can enhance understanding to solve challenges in life. But Mandy brings up a good point that we are not completely neutral in our collecting of information due to scarce funding, something that can cause controversy. Stewardship Value: preservation of content itself like repositories, as well as eliminating the barriers to access, such as through fair use, copyright, perpetual licensing agreements, and protection of the right of first sale. Henk  covers the philosophical debate on sustainability, ecological economics, increasing population, and scientific research regarding the topic, providing quality research, anecdotal stories, and statistical facts to support the topic, in a concise easy to read and understand manner. Ending on a more positive tone, she states that the sustainability movement is now turning into a social movement and trend.

The last section of Part 1 provides a method for making the transition. Henk says the first step involves educating all your stakeholders on the relevance and benefits of sustainability in libraries, making sure people understand this is beyond just greening the library programs.  It’s critical to allow room for discussion and debate through reading groups, open forums, film and discussion nights, etc. She offers an appendix of resources that could help in this area in your library. Forming a sustainability committee can help with key visions and direction for this transition. Henk offers lots of great suggestions on formatting this group , who should be included, and the importance of making contacts outside the library. Community and campus partnerships are key in learning, connecting and transiting to a sustainable library. She gives the important plug or your frontline staff being critical for the success of this committee, as they may be the most impacted in many of these changes (such as going with a new sustainable printer paper or a composting program). Be sure to check out her section on how to talk to your administration if they are not supportive. And remember “small steps” – each one counts toward the whole.   Part 1 concludes with an amazing useful assessment tool – the complete version is found in the book’s appendix. Part 1 of the Assessment Tool has 5 steps: sustainability committee, support for initiatives, relationships with outside groups, sustainability programming and collections, and creating a sustainability plan. For more details, you’ll have to get the book!

Book Review (Part 1/4): Ecology, Economy, Equity

Henk_300Reading the book Ecology, Economy, Equity: The Path to a Carbon-Neutral Library published in 2014, I got really excited about the information, tools, ideas and connections the author Mandy Henk pulled together in this short but rich book on growing sustainability in libraries and the profession. I decided to blog about the book in order to share the information and questions I discovered – and encourage others to read it thoroughly themselves.

The book is divided into three parts: Transition to Sustainability in the Library, Building a Sustainable Library, and Sustainable Librarianship Practice. She also includes useful tools in the appendices such as a sustainability assessment worksheet, a sample sustainability plan and a resources list. I plan to summarize and share each of the three sections in separate blog posts. Stay tuned!