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Academic Libraries’ Role in Sustainability Education

April 7, 2014

Earth Day (April 22) is fast approaching. Undoubtedly, campuses across PA will be celebrating by inviting guest speakers, holding electronics recycling drives, hosting Earth Day fairs, screening environmentally themed films, and so on. Many colleges and universities do so much for Earth Day that they find one day simply isn’t enough and expand the events out to Earth Week or even Earth Month. I am a proponent of sustainability initiatives on campus and believe that universities have a special obligation to not only educate about environmental issues and the importance of sustainability, but also to lead by example and practice what we preach.

If your library hasn’t found a way to participate in Earth Day events yet, it may be too late for your library to take part this year; however, this is a good opportunity to learn what other academic libraries are doing to celebrate the Earth and sustainability, take time to reflect, and begin planning early for ways your library can play a major role in next year’s events.

Earth Day is a wonderful thing, but it is of course just a day put in place to remind us of the aphorism “Every day is Earth Day.” With that in mind, as you begin to think about participating in next year’s Earth Day events, it is even more important to think about how your library can become a sustainability leader throughout the year. Libraries, primarily known for resource sharing, are based in the very idea of sustainability; however, that does not mean our contribution begins and ends there. As noted, many universities across PA have incorporated sustainability initiatives into their operations and they have even included the importance of it in their missions. Academic libraries are academic departments in their own right that also double as busy social hubs; therefore, as educators we have a responsibility to play our part in sustainability education and as caretakers of busy campus centers, we have special obligations to use our environment to teach students about sustainability and lead by example.

In conclusion, if your library is participating in Earth Day events or has a sustainability component in your mission or daily operations, please share what you are doing in the comment section of this blog post so that other libraries can also consider adopting those practices. If you are not currently active or feel that you could be more active, I urge you to check the comments section, visit various PA library blogs and websites in order to keep an eye out for ways libraries are championing sustainability and participating in Earth Day events so that you can position your library as a sustainability leader on campus as well.

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