UN Sustainability Goals and our Libraries

Over the past year, how many free zoom presentations or conferences have you signed up for in advance, only to be too tired, zoomed out, or busy to attend? I haven’t counted, but for me that number would be embarrassingly high. Sometimes I suddenly have a class to teach, an unexpected meeting to attend, or I am just exhausted from the computer and life in general to feel I was open to learning. 

I have attended some really valuable presentations however, and I am excited to share about one in particular, that was short, kept my attention, and inspired new ideas. I am a longtime member of ALA and AASL, because I enjoy learning about what other types of libraries are doing and what I could bring to my library and professional life. In February I finally went to my first ALA Connect presentation, over zoom.

The email caught my eye with the subject line ALA Connect Live – Let’s talk Sustainability. Brentwood School teachers have highlighted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in different projects, so I had some familiarity with them but hadn’t really thought about them in the context of our library. This presentation helped me make that connection and wonder why I hadn’t before.

Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership.

-from “The 17 Goals”

I am admittedly a bit late to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) party and grappling with how to incorporate them into my library, so I wanted to share some links and first ideas with you. Maybe sometime we can brainstorm together.

Here are the helpful slides from the ALA Connect presentation. The description is: ALA recognizes the important and unique role libraries play in wider community conversations about resiliency, climate change, a sustainable future, and what libraries themselves can do. This extends to being part of global initiatives to achieve sustainable development. Listen to learn about ALA efforts and new resources for you – and how you and your library can be change agents. This important ALA Connect Live included Loida Garcia-Febo, Chair of the ALA Task Force on UN Sustainable Development Goal and Casey Conlin, Coordinator, SustainRT.

Major takeaways: 

  • We can continue to learn so much from the different types of libraries.
  • ALA made the UN goals a priority by starting a Task Force, and has joined with the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) to promote them.
    • “IFLA’s consistent position is that access to information is essential in achieving the SDGs, and that libraries are not only key partners for governments but are already contributing to progress towards the achievement of the 17 Goals.” From IFLA’s page, “Libraries, Development and the United Nations 2030 Agenda
  • What if my student library advisory council took on the sustainability goals through a library lens? What would that look like? 
    • Would we discover alternatives to plastic book covers? 
    • Would we re-think our maker activities?
    • How will it change my collection development or programming?
    • What would my fiction book club read?
  • I will join the Sustainability Round Table next time I renew my ALA membership. They have great resources like the Earth Day 50 for 50 document, which has creative ideas for Earth Day programming such as fact checking science articles online about the environment, or hosting a clothing swap meet, or a “stitch club” where you gather and mend clothes instead of tossing them.
  • I joined the SustainRT: Libraries Fostering Resilient Communities Facebook group to keep up with conversations, and continue learning (and already sent our Food Science teacher one of the ideas: making a cookbook of recipes that use seasonal local ingredients).

The presenters used the amazing Los Angeles Public Library’s goals chart as an example, and in #4 Quality Education, they highlighted the Student Success Cards, library cards given to every LAUSD student and now also independent school students in Los Angeles. We just got the cards for our students this academic year, thanks to a presentation from LAPL librarians at one of our local consortium’s (SoCaLIS) conferences. 

OCLC has a 5 part series on the UN SDGs and libraries, and one session is tomorrow (Tuesday March 9th). See you there?

How are you using the UN SDGs at your library or with your students? Would anyone like to collaborate on how to bring these goals to the independent school libraries? Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts on Gratitude

Since this post comes the day before Thanksgiving, I am doing the obvious and sharing what I am grateful for in my work life this unusual and difficult year, 2020. What a year! How many times did you have to pivot, adapt, re-think, re-do, and maybe even cry, to get through your workday yesterday, let alone the last eight months? I mean, aren’t you ready to bash this piñata in celebration when this is all over? 

covid pinata
Did you know that Los Angeles has a piñata district?

Seriously though, contemplating gratitude, work-related or not, has helped me cope with this unprecedented  year. After working on this gratitude list, I realized an overarching theme: I am grateful for the people in my professional life. Thanks to all of you for being part of it!

I am grateful for the AISL and SoCaLIS leaders who have provided valuable professional development over Zoom, building community and lifting my confidence during the past 8 months.

The Zoom conversations and group communications helped me find a path at work when I was very overwhelmed with what to do. 

I am extremely grateful for my job that I can do from home, and for my colleagues, many of whom I consider friends. 

I am grateful for my school administration that is working tirelessly to adapt thoughtfully to what students and teachers need, no matter what restrictions the pandemic and California/Los Angeles leaders throw its way. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to have some new responsibilities which have led to meaningful growth and learning. Working with a dedicated group of faculty I am leading a year long, once-per-month smaller faculty book group discussion on White Fragility, which is both challenging and rewarding. 

I am grateful for collaboration and support. In addition to collaborations with classroom teachers, we started a K-12 relationship with the Los Angeles Public Library (Student Success Cards) which involved administration, data managers, librarians, and library volunteers to work together. 

I am very grateful for the library assistants, up for any work from home that comes their way. Our instagram is amazing this year (@bwslibrary) and the diversity audit of our fiction is slow and steady, as it should be, thanks to these wonderful people.

I am grateful for the opportunity to attend more student meetings because I don’t have to supervise the library. I enjoy seeing the students lead club meetings on so many topics that were hard to attend when we were at the physical school. I admire many of our students and their dedication and creativity, and I am thankful to learn from them.

And finally, I am grateful for Cody Rigsby at Peloton. Really! I have a small injury so jogging is out, but biking in IN! I try to catch a ride between work classes/meetings sometimes, as my new bike is in my “office”  (my son’s old room). The cardio helps clear my head for work (that is the work connection) and Cody keeps me entertained. (If you ride, put your handle in the comments. I am ElisabethPA, but might change it soon to Bookin’It or something librarian snazzy like that. Do you have suggestions for me? Is there a librarian hashtag?)

My home office (aka my son’s room while he is at college). Also featuring my co-worker Paws the cat (Instagram @paws.the.cat) who sometimes sits on the towel, sometimes the bed, and lately my desk.

What are you grateful for at work right now? 

What’s on Your To-Do List?

I love to-do lists. I love the feeling of organizing my brain while making a list and the satisfaction I feel while crossing items off as I go. On Fridays I usually make a weekend list, and on Monday mornings I make a list for the work week. This school year I have also been using Google Keep to make not only my weekly lists, but also my broader, to-do at some point lists, and narrow lists for particular projects and collaborations. I love Google Keep, and I am trying to use it to keep track of much of my work life, although I also have a spiral bound notebook on my desk during remote learning for new items that come up. Again, I love lists.

My home workspace

But the list I keep finding myself working on now is my summer goals list. I don’t really have to work during the summer, but of course I always do. I plan, order materials, design orientations, and improve access to resources. I make lists. But what to do this unusual summer? I don’t even know what will be happening in the fall. Do I order print books? Invest more in databases?  Here are some broad goals from my Google Keep lists to share with you.

  1. Watch the AISL zoom meetings that I missed in person. I always get a couple items from my lists at those!
  2. Learn to use the library sewing machine. We bought a sewing machine a few years ago and the kids sometimes use it for small projects. Our library assistant knows how to use it but I never learned. Now may be my moment, so I brought it home. This is a goal really for myself, as I really don’t know if kids will be coming in to use our maker tools in the next academic year. But it gives me time to get really good at it!
  3. Learn to make better instructional videos and brand them. Camtasia has a template feature which makes it really easy to add intros and brand elements to all your videos. I want to do that and make the library YouTube channel full of (better) help videos to insert into LibGuides.
  4. Once again, I need to reorganize my LibGuides, maybe even adding something like LibAnswers for chat reference. This time, the reorganization could better highlight my new fabulous videos, but also highlight our online resources and how to use them in remote learning more easily. 
  5. Work with my team to make processes for a potential reopening. This is already happening, but we don’t know when it will be implemented. We have been gathering resources – more lists!

What are your goals for this summer? What is on your list?

Know Your Zone

How do students know where to work or socialize in your library?

Issues we sometimes have in our space: students congregating around a friend in a study carrel and talking, a student taking up a study room meant for groups, people chatting in a silent room, a loud group of eight at a table meant for four or five.

Our upper school library is mainly a big room with three break-out rooms and a library classroom. The main part of the library has table seating for about 40 people, a lounge area, and about 40 study carrels surround the bookshelves. Obviously noise is an issue in our  large room, especially at lunch, and we are constantly trying new ways to get kids to understand where to sit for what purpose. 

This year we introduced “Know Your Library Zones” at all the grade-wide orientations at the start of the year. We also put two posters in the library.

The first semester after the orientations, I could walk up to people chatting in the silent areas and they would say “know your zone!” and move away. Now in February, it might be time to remind the students about the zones, but for the most part I think it helped a bit. Students are signing up for the rooms and seem to be thinking more about where to go when they enter the library, depending on their activity. We are still a loud and active library for the most part, but even small improvements help so that there are some quiet spaces. I will remind them of the zones pretty soon at an assembly.

How do you help your students know where to sit for the different types of work they do in your library? Or does it matter?

Pop-Up Party: Books for Breaks

As we slowly inch towards spring break (!), I am thinking about how to promote our library books to our upper school students. A couple of years ago, the English department began assigning free reading for winter and spring breaks, and I want to do something as special for this spring break as we just did for winter break to promote the library books.

Last year, many English teachers brought students up to the library in groups, but this year, after  four unexpected days off of school due to local fires (our lower school and many of our students’ homes were in the evacuation zone), our teachers were pressed for teaching time and weren’t sure they could bring their classes this year. I wanted to do something festive and different, which would work with either whole classes or students coming in on their free time. 

Our party “invitation” was sent to everyone via email and on display boards around the Upper School campus.

This is where teamwork came in. I am lucky to work with two fabulous full-time Library Assistants. We developed the Pop-Up Party: Books for Breaks, which was located on one end of the library. The Pop-Up lasted one month, to give time to check out books for both Thanksgiving break and winter break. We decorated the area with twinkly lights and centerpieces made from weeded books. We brought the best of the best books and put them in areas by theme. We extended due dates until our second week back in January, and even distributed goodie bag reading kits full of holiday treats, cocoa packets, bookmarks, and instructions for using our Overdrive ebooks and audiobooks.

Library Assistant Maggie Lara made our entry display.

Approximately half of the English classes came to check out books, and I taught them about our ebook and audiobook collections and highlighted particular books of every format. I even told them it was my birthday party, when in fact it was my birthday, and asked them to celebrate with me by taking the time to find books they like. Other kids came on their own. By the end of the month-long party, many of the twinkly lights burned out and we ran out of goodie bags, but by then our new students learned about the library as a welcoming and fun space, and everyone is now more aware of our collection. We were able to start conversations with readers we didn’t know well, and perhaps people who don’t call themselves readers but still checked out books. Students are returning the books now, asking for sequels, and actually responding to emailed overdue notices.

Maggie Lara made table runners and centerpieces out of weeded books and twinkly lights (which I had left over from my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah 4 years ago).

What do I do for spring break to keep the book excitement going? How do you promote free reading and your collection? I would love some ideas from you for March!