Sustainable Thinking: Ensuring Your Library’s Future in an Uncertain World

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  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • About the Author
  • Reviews

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How we talk about what we do is just as important as what we do, and in communicating the value of libraries to our society what our profession needs is confidence, determination, and the will to succeed. In this inspiring and pragmatic new book, Aldrich shows that the first step towards a sustainable library is sustainable thinking: a determined yet realistic attitude that will help your library spot opportunities for institutional advancement, advocate for and safeguard operating funds, and generate intense loyalty from the communities you serve. Nothing less than a compass to help chart the course of your library’s future, this book

  • begins with a situation report that examines the myriad societal disruptions that are impacting libraries and discusses why resiliency is a key component of sustainability;
  • defines how sustainable thinking encompasses not just the environment but economics and social equity as well;
  • provides strategies for supporting the core values of librarianship by following the Three Es of Sustainable Libraries;
  • lays out a host of tactics to build intense loyalty to your library from the inside out, including ways to foster an organizational culture of sustainable thinking through policy changes and purposeful leadership;  
  • guides you in communicating effectively with the community, thereby ensuring that your advocacy connects with the maximum number of residents, opinion leaders, and decision makers;
  • demonstrates how to use construction and renovation projects as unique opportunities for positive changes; and
  • offers worksheets, discussion questions, checklists, additional resources, and many other useful tools that will help you put sustainable thinking into action.

This book will show you how to harness sustainable thinking to move forward with confidence into the unknown.


Part I    Situation Report

  • 1    Disruption: Inside, Outside, and All Around
  • 2    Beyond Our Walls
  • 3    Back to Basics
  • 4    Survive the Earth
  • 5    The Most Important Thing

Part II    The Strategy

  • 6    Being Strategic
  • 7    The Why Behind the What
  • 8    WHY: Core Values of Librarianship
  • 9    HOW: The Three Es of Sustainable Libraries
  • 10    WHAT: Local Supports Local
  • 11    Sustainable Thinking Defined
  • 12    Interpreting Sustainability Using the Triple Bottom Line
  • 13    Whole Systems Thinking
  • 14    Beyond Sustainability
  • 15    Beyond Resiliency

Part III    The Tactics

  • 16    From the Inside Out
  • 17    Change Leadership
  • 18    How We Get There
  • 19    Benchmarks for Sustainable Libraries
  • 20    Sustainable Libraries Certification Program
  • 21    Top Level Infusion
  • 22    Sustainable Organizational Culture
  • 23    Increasing Ecological Intelligence
  • 24    Construction and Renovation: Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunities
  • 25    Catalyst and Convener

Part IV    Resources

  • American Library Association’s Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries
  • New York Library Association’s Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries
  • Case Study: Kingston (New York) Library Climate Smart Pledge
  • Climate Smart Community Library Pledge
  • American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment
  • Long-Range Plan Example: West Vancouver (British Columbia) Memorial Library 

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich (MLS, LEED AP) is Executive Director, Mid-Hudson Library System (New York). Her work has focused on library leadership, governance, marketing, and facility design, all with an eye toward inspiring financial investment in libraries. She is the sustainability columnist for Library Journal, cochair of the New York Library Association’s Sustainability Initiative, and a founding member of the American Library Association’s Sustainability Round Table. Named a Library Journal  Mover & Shaker, she is a frequent national presenter and writer on the topic of leading libraries forward in smart, practical, and effective ways.

"Drawing on the literature of psychology, business, and government, as well as her own experience working on library-sustainability issues at the local, state, and national levels, Aldrich outlines a step-by-step plan for positioning libraries as leaders in building sustainable communities ... Perhaps the most important ingredient is Aldrich’s passion for her subject—her belief in libraries as 'empowerment engines' is infectious and sure to inspire current and future library leaders.”
— Booklist

"Sustainable Thinking is a book which I hope is widely read by library leaders, including trustees.  Even if it doesn't lead immediately to actions, I can imagine the useful conversations it might spark.  Personally, I'm looking forward to giving my copy of the book to the president of the local library board of trustees, and then talking with him about it."
— Jill Hurst-Wahl, Digitization 101

"Provides a great starting point for learning how to be intentional with our decisions and contemplating how to endure when there is disruption. We have to be relevant and hold true to the core values of librarianship. Our communities have the right to endure. Library staff from all types of institutions will find value in this well-researched book about systems thinking, economics, and leadership. Aldrich is able to weave both personal and professional stories in each of her chapters to provide relatable examples.”
— SRRT Newsletter

"Yes, the book is about helping libraries understand and plan for a future with a foundation shifting underfoot. The intention and motivation behind this goal, though, are undeniably emotional and activist in nature. Far from a criticism, a book that serves as a type of call-to-arms for the entire library profession should be a welcome voice to the conversation ... Sustainable Thinking is a fantastic resource for many types of audiences. Library-friendly individuals will sense a renewed urgency to keep fighting for libraries in our society. Perhaps more importantly, though, would be a potential audience that could benefit from some enlightenment, knowledge, and new perspective regarding libraries.”