During the Infinite Learning modules, I was reminded of a mini conference session I attended about a month ago. The conference was focused on sustainability in libraries and the session provided ideas for using programs to teach sustainability in public libraries. Sara Whitaker, the presenter from the Gwinnett County Library, hosts monthly informational craft sessions where participants learn about an element of environmental sustainability and then make a craft with trash. The finished crafts are then donated to a group in the community. This program is magnificent for so many reasons: it’s group connection, creative thinking, use of recycled materials, participatory education, and it ends with functional service to the community.
The program is typically run with the learning portion at the beginning so people haven’t left the room by the time it happens. It is brief, engaging, and can be related to the art project of the day. In one particular example provided, the group learned about the over-production of plastic bags, the impact their presence has on the environment, and some statistics about the use of plastic bags locally. Then, with previously used plastic bags, the group made mats that were given to people experiencing homelessness to use as a ground barrier.
Sara Whitaker also shared about their educational displays and learning programs for World Ocean Day where they designed and created trash sculptures of marine life. They have participatory stations set up for hands-on learning and games to keep the learners engaged. Also mentioned are more informal types of education, like talking to the teens about the recyclability of pizza boxes when they finish eating the pizza they’ve ordered. (Cardboard is only recyclable if it does not have food grease on it, but it can always be composted!)
Some of my own experiences with sustainability education have come from free programs through city departments. I have attended composting workshops at the local recycling center and was given a free compost bin at the end of the information session. It’s served me well for four years and now I can educate my family and friends about composting.
Not library-related, but in the same vein of education, participation, and creativity with the use of recycled materials is a front lawn installation in my neighborhood called the Aquarium on Parkside. Back in April, the family began constructing a front yard aquarium filled with animals built out of recycled materials. Many of the animals are accompanied by facts about the animal so passersby can learn while they look. They have small cardboard cutouts of many of the animals for community members to decorate and return, as well as a basket of recyclables out on the lawn so anyone feeling inspired can build an animal to add to the aquarium. The Aquarium on Parkside is the perfect example of a participatory, educational display that engages community education in sustainable way.
There are so many opportunities for libraries to form educational, participatory programming that engages users by challenging their ingenuity. Sustainability education can be woven into the fabric of library service, take place inside or outside of the library, show up formally during a special program or informally in conversations with users. I am inspired by the work other libraries have done and the unique ways my community members provide educational service to others.
Stephens, M. (2020). Infinite learning: Library as a classroom [Lecture]. https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=671a2e9a-2353-4f21-be3c-aaef01310760
Stephens, M. (2020). Infinite learning: Learning everywhere [Lecture]. https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=e38d4a22-9626-4b29-a038-aaef0124ee52
Whitaker, S. (October 15, 2020). Sustainability in libraries [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBm18jp72CQ&feature=youtu.be