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

Stoss Wins Green Education Award!

Fred Stoss (librarian at University at Buffalo) is know in library world for his work in the sustainability area. He has been a long advocate, presenters, writer, and educator in ALA and beyond in the area of greening libraries. Internationally he has been working with libraries in the Caribbean and recently won an award for his efforts:  the 1st  Friend of the Biblioteca Nacional Aruba (BNA, National Library of Aruba) Award for his work with in green education programming, helping to create the library’s Caribbean Energy, Environmental, and Sustainability Program. He received the award at the 3rd annual Green Education Symposium Aruba in April.   Read more  here and Congrats to Fred!



Resource: Arctic Research

In the Feb 2011 edition of ACRL’s College & Research Library News,  Spencer Acadia, a psychology and sociology librarian at Texas Woman’s University, writing a Ph.D. dissertation on Arctic health, published a list of internet resources on the Arctic research –  environment, health, and culture of the circumpolar north. This annotated list of resources from scientific research to arctic health, offers a plethora of information on useful links and websites worth linking to from your library’s website to offer your patrons.

New green blog on energy & environment

The New York Times has a blog called Green: a blog about energy and the environment.  In honor of Earth Day’s 40th anniversary, the NYT is taking it up a notch from their original Green Inc blog to now blog about “not just the business end of environmental concerns but also politics and policy, environmental science and consumer choices.” Be sure to check out the latest post on the Existential Crisis of the Plastic Bag – including the 18 min video (by Ramin  Bahrani) on the impact consumerism  has “in a world that treats it like trash.”  Be sure to read the side bar listing the amazing lists of expert writers & contributes to this blog!

Resource: State Blogs on Environmental Issues

Sustainablog has a post  listing 5 state’s  blogs on environmental issues. Does your state have one? a worthy resource to promote for your patrons and staff if so; if not, bug your local or state government to get one up!

Wired Science: Time-Lapse Videos of Massive Change on Earth

I thought it was worth sharing these interesting (hmmm??) videos from NASA’s Earth Observatory satellites capturing (over time) human destruction of the planet from deforestation, irrigation and urbanization. Here is one called Sucking Out the Aral Sea:

In the 1960s, central Asia’s Aral Sea was the fourth largest lake in the world. As a result of irrigation and damming, it had shriveled to 10 percent of its original size (marked by the thin black line) by 2007. It is now three separate, highly salinic, lakes.

Watch more at Wired Science or check out NASA’s Earth Observatory site.


Books worth adding to your collection (of course that is if you have a budget at all in your library right now!)

RealClimate suggested two titles:

fixinclimateFixing Climate: What Past Climate Changes Reveal About the Current Threat–and How to Counter It
by Wallace S. Broecker & Robert Kunzig
Their review: This is a book written in a particular style – a number of recent advances in relevant paleo-climate (abrupt changes, mega-droughts, etc.) are examined through the lens of a single scientist and their one key measurement or observation. This makes for a good narrative, but without wishing to take anything away from the great science discussed or the individual insights, it’s only a partial picture of how these interesting ideas actually took root and got validated by the wider community. The climate fix the book ends up backing is a scheme for the air capture of CO2 (discussed here, and more recently here). The technology is fascinating, but at over a couple of hundred $/per ton CO2, the economics are a long way from being viable.



forgivingairThe Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change (2nd edition)
by Richard C. J. Somerville
Their review: It is definitely worth paying attention to books that may have been out for a while, or in a new edition. We were particularly impressed with Richard Somerville’s award-winning introduction to understanding environmental change.







icemudbloodIce, Mud and Bloog: Lessons from Climates Past
By Chris Turney
Their review:  Also dwelling on paleo-climate is Chris Turney’s Ice, Mud and Blood. Eric reviewed this for Nature, noting that “Turney is by no means the first to try to articulate the point that paleoclimatology has lessons for our future. Richard Alley’s The Two-Mile Time Machine and Mark Bowen’s Thin Ice, to name just two, have made the same basic arguments. But Turney’s book is the most up to date, and I would certainly recommend it to colleagues, who will enjoy it and may well learn something new, as I did.”





Also check out books Real Climate has been involved with since 2005:

And a recommendation from Green Today, Green Tomorrow blog:

62493299_140 Environmenal Issues in American History: A Reference Guide with Primary Documents
by Chris J Magoc
Their review: discusses key environmental battles from the founding of our country to the present day.  Importantly, this book includes primary documents, so that the reader can “hear” from the people who are locked in these battles.

Environment & Resource Management Division of SLA

Did you know about the Environment & Resource Management Division (ERMD) of SLA? They offer a discussion list, a Green Award, a newsletter, and support green initiatives and presentations at conferences.   If you are lucky enough to be able to attend the SLA 2009 Annual Conference, it will be June 14-17, 2009, in Washington, DC and be sure to check out these ERMD sessions: Building your Green Library – From Information to Legislation: Silent Spring and its impact on anti-pollution law and policy – REACH and the Future of Toxics Legislation – Socially Responsible Decision-Making: Ethics at work – Toxicology Round Table: Environmental resources of the National Library of Medicine using innovative web technology.  ERMD will also be co-sponsoring sessions on Food Safety and on Climate Change. (Detailed Schedule)

Oh and ERMD is on Facebook too.

ecoBrain: green books for green living

Have you checked out ecoBrain? The company was started by two families both in the publishing arenas, living in the US and Canada, passionate about the environment and living more green.  They offer eBooks and mp3 audio books about the environment and environmentally-friendly living. Not only do they offer electronic books but in doing so they allow new publishers to produce material much more quickly, cheaply, and profitably.  They allow employees to work from home and purchase carbon offsets for their business operations. ecoBrain hopes to grow their online community to be the largest provider of educational resources for eco-friendly living.

All content on EcoBrain is in downloadable, digital format, so you can buy green with zero use of forest-pulping paper and only a minimal amount of expended energy.