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!

8 thoughts on “UN Sustainability Goals and our Libraries

  1. See you Tuesday at the OCLC series on UN SDGs and libraries. Was the ALA presentation recorded? Thanks for sharing your experiences and possible ideas for creating a sustainable library.

  2. Very thoughtful, Elisabeth–especially your question about plastic book jackets. Should I be buying paperbacks rather than hardbound books? Would love to know your ideas about fiction dealing with sustainability..

  3. Thank you for this excellent blog on the SDGs.
    I would like to share the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative blog where this month a different International School Librarian will be highlighting one of the 17 goals with an entry of approaches and resources. The global perspective is shining through each entry.


  4. Great article Elisabeth! Our school heavily relies on the UN Sustainability Goals, so now you’ve got me thinking about how the library can support these goals! I’d be happy to collaborate!

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