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.

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!
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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.