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CILIPSGoGreen – Environmental Resources for Libraries and Librarians

The CILIPSGoGreen logo, showing CILIPS Scotland's library and information professionals in white with a green, purple, yellow and pink wildflower meadow background.

‘If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need,’ observed Cicero in a letter dating from 46 BC, and libraries today are playing an essential role in tackling the climate crisis. Maintaining the momentum of COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, which took place in Glasgow from 31st October-12th November 2021, it has never been more vital for our profession to play its part in encouraging change, combating misinformation about the stark reality of the climate crisis, and embedding sustainable practices into our ways of working. This evolving resource collection is designed to support LIS professionals as we all seek to grow our environmental consciousness – if you have any further recommendations or ideas for what you’d like to see on this page, please feel free to get in touch at admin@cilips.org.uk.

The #CILIPSGoGreen Collection

The Green Libraries Network logo, with white text on a green background reading 'Working together for people and planet' with a graphic of three figures stylized from leaf stems.

  • ‘Libraries have a sustainable principle at their heart and that should be celebrated…’ in this inspiring, thought-provoking video interview, Heather Macnaughton and Bruce Newlands share their sustainability expertise with us. Our conversation explores environmental knowledge exchange, sustainability steps for historic library buildings, the power of the past to inspire the present and much more: watch below or find the full recording with timings here.

  • Don’t miss this video interview with Rowan Lear and Bobbie Winter-Burke from Glasgow Seed Library: sharing insights into the project, its powerful social and environmental impact, and how CILIPS members can harness that inspiration to the benefit of their library communities.

  • In this fascinating blog, Chris Fleet and Louise Speller from the National Library of Scotland reveal how the Library’s extensive Map Collection can be used to research the reality of climate change, highlighting what libraries can do to promote sustainability in Scotland and beyond.
  • ‘Whether it’s a work of fiction showing life through the eyes of another person to experience a place, an emotion or a situation from a different perspective, or nonfiction, poetry or practical guide books, or even just a place to meet and talk to other people, libraries provide it all…’ Artist and writer Christina Riley shares what her project The Nature Library has taught her about inspiring climate engagement in local communities and why #LibrariesAreEssential to promoting sustainability in Scotland.
  • Meet Baby McBookface, Orkney Library & Archive‘s electric new addition, in this brilliant new blog by Simon Brown and Betty Stanger.
  • Interested in the steps we’re taking to ensure that our 2022 Annual Conference is as sustainable as it is inspirational? Click here to discover where #CILIPSGoGreen meets #CILIPS22.

Inspiration Station – Library Sustainability Around the World

  • The We Are CILIP strategy and action plan highlights Sustainability as one of the four key strategic contexts shaping our sector. In February 2022, CILIP announced the Arts Council England funded Green Libraries Partnership, a multiyear research and development programme to enable public libraries in England to address Environmental Responsibility. The Green Libraries Partnership works in collaboration with leading organisations: Arts Council Englandthe British LibraryLibraries Connected and Julie’s Bicycle. Find out more here and look out for #CILIPSGoGreen in their extensive Resource Library!
  • From a helpful illustration of the waste hierarchy to thoughtful prompts (like ‘What made your great, great, granny so great? How was she more sustainable than we are now?’), Fun Palaces’ Sustainability Toolkit 2022 is an invaluable resource for eco-friendly event planning. Be sure to share details of your Fun Palaces with CILIPS too so we can help spread the word and celebrate your wonderful work.
  • #ScotClimateWeek will take place this year during the week of 26th September 2022: helping to raise awareness of the global climate emergency and celebrate Scotland’s leadership in taking action against climate change. Visit their website for fantastic advice on how to take action on themes like Active Travel, Electric Vehicles, Reduce Reuse Recycle and much more, as well as toolkits and quizzes on reducing Food Waste, Home Energy Use and other topics of relevance to your library community.
  • ‘With climate change comes inequality… those who already face marginalisation are especially vulnerable to the effects.’ For Pride Month 2022, the Carbon Literacy Project reflects on the potentially disproportionate impact of the climate crisis on LGBTQ+ communities and provides a helpful list of queer-led environmental organisations.
  • Moving from ‘symbolic to impactful outcomes… the role of libraries in a world on fire’. Catch up with Michael Peter Edson’s galvanizing keynote at #WLIC2022 and prepare to get playful whilst thinking seriously about the unique contribution that our sector can make to climate action.
  • In May 2022, our friends at SLIC won one of four prestigious funding opportunities from the £1 million Circular Futures Fund for Lend and Mend Spaces: a pilot to create up to 10 circular economy community spaces within libraries with workshops, lending facilities and repair hubs. Learn more about this inspiring sustainable project and the possibilities it offers on SLIC’s website.
  • Did you hear Bridget McKenzie, Founding Director of Climate Museum UK, address our annual conference #CILIPS21 about what libraries can do to help tackle the earth crisis? If you missed it (or want to watch again), catch her rousing and inspiring keynote here.
  • Climate Beacons for COP26 is a nationwide collaboration between environmental organisations and the arts, heritage and cultural sector to stimulate long-term public engagement with climate action. Many congratulations to Inverclyde Libraries and Western Isles Libraries for both becoming key partners within their regional beacons, along with all the library services across Scotland who will be contributing to the project. Thank you also to the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) for supporting Scotland’s Climate Beacons throughout!
  • This brilliant blog by Sophie Robinson at Glasgow Women’s Library offers an in-depth yet accessible overview of COP26 and its significance for Scotland (and the world). We also loved Sophie’s powerful call-to-action highlighting the essential need for greater representation of women amongst COP26 decision makers and why evidence suggests that women’s active participation in the political process leads to better climate outcomes.
  • To mark their 30th birthday in 2021, Glasgow Women’s Library launched a fundraising initiative that combines feminist conscious raising with building a more sustainable future. Women on the Wall welcomes nominations of women who deserve to be honoured for their pioneering contributions, with their names appearing in an environmentally-sound wall installation and donated costs going towards meeting GWL’s net carbon neutral goal. Learn more about the project here.
  • #LibrariesAreEssential to tackling misinformation and providing accurate, evidence-based knowledge about the reality of climate change. Visit this page on the National Library of Scotland’s Map Images website for some vivid visual examples of how their research is illustrating the impact of human activity on the environment.
  • Keep Scotland Beautiful is a charity with three goals: to combat climate change, tackle litter and waste, and protect and enhance the places we live, work and visit. Find out more here about their vital activities, including publishing reports on everything from taking care of Scotland’s beaches to how to reduce litter, and a wide range of CPD courses such as Climate Emergency Training.
  • ‘Each of us can make a difference, and together accomplish what might seem impossible’ (Wangari Maathi: 1940-2011). Challenging the historic under-representation and under-acknowledgement of black voices in the sustainability movement, the Carbon Literacy Project have shared this concise yet informative blog: highlighting the extraordinary work of climate activists of colour from the 19th century to the present day.
  • We recently attended an inspiring British Library Living Knowledge Network webinar with V&A Sustainability Lead Sara Kassam, discovering more about the museum’s concerted efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. Find more information here along with the V&A Sustainability Plan – has your library developed a similar strategy? Let us know so we can spread the word!
  • This Gallery Carbon Climate Coalition calculator is also an ultra-handy tool for quantifying your organisation’s carbon footprint. Although some fields are tailored to art galleries and museums, inputting your travel and electricity use provides a fascinating (potentially shocking) insight into where improvements could be made. WWF also provides a free Carbon Footprint Calculator for individuals – access it here.
  • Julie’s Bicycle, a not-for-profit that specializes in mobilizing the arts and culture sectors to take action on the climate crisis, recently published a report ‘Culture: The Missing Link’ that highlights strong awareness within the sector about the importance of climate action, yet also identifies the need for better funding and dialogue with policy makers to allow this potential to be realised. Their website also includes lots of other helpful resources – we especially love this page on deciphering confusing terms or ‘Green Gibberish’!
  • Speaking of the critical role that culture plays in sustainability, check out The Dear Green Bothy, led by the University of Glasgow’s College of Arts: a space where researchers, artists and communities have been gathering together to respond creatively and critically to the challenges of the ecological crisis. Amidst a packed and impactful programme, enjoy everything from The Walking Library and the importance of public parks to Bright Edge Deep, an online exhibition celebrating the beauty and biocultural significance of peat bogs.
  • The Sir Alex Ferguson Library at Glasgow Caledonian University opens up into the beautiful Saltire garden, a calming green space where students, researchers and all other library users can come together and relax or just enjoy some quiet contemplation (always better with birdsong)! There is considerable evidence to suggest that incorporating nature into your library – even simple window boxes or a small collection of plants – can have a beneficial impact on both staff and community wellbeing. Click here to read CILIPS Membership Officer Kirsten’s Information Professional article outlining how ‘outdoor spaces help libraries to grow’.
  • Looking for inspiration in getting started? Library Planet is a crowdsourced library travel guide where you can glimpse what life is like inside libraries all over the world. What about a roof garden like that of Vejen Public Library in Denmark or Aarhus University Library where an abstract shape of greenery swirls around the atrium?
  •  If you find yourself still needing to persuade people that greening your library scene is a worthwhile step forward, remind them that there is an ‘extensive and robust body of evidence’ connecting access to green spaces with reduced mortality and specifically ‘healthier heart rates, blood pressure, vitamin D levels, cortisol levels and recuperation rates’ (‘Evidence Statement on the links between natural environments and human health).
  • The 2020 Spaces to Thrive report, based on research conducted by Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Sheffield, and produced with The National Lottery Community Fund, also demonstrates the essential value that green spaces have in terms of health, wellbeing and social integration – just like libraries themselves!
  • Research published by Plymouth University has highlighted how outside activities help young people to develop skills in self-directed and creative learning – ideal for any of our spectacular school librarians who fancy taking their charges into the great outdoors!
  • Libraries and Gardens: Growing Together by Carrie Scott Banks and Cindy Mediavilla (2019) explores a variety of library-garden case studies to demonstrate how they have the potential to improve community engagement, cohesion and health. You can read an interview with the authors here and don’t miss the accompanying episode of the American Libraries ‘Call Number’ podcast – listen here for free.
  • Sustainability is a key concern for contemporary architecture, and that’s certainly true when planning to build/adapt library spaces. New Libraries in Old Buildings – Creative Reuse is a 2021 publication by IFLA featuring international examples of best practice, and they’ve very generously made the book free to read online as a PDF or EPUB.
  • Closer to home, this Heritage Fund case study of Saughton Park in Edinburgh highlights the many opportunities that green spaces present for citizens, noting how the park ‘offer[s] a welcoming environment for marginalised people that is undemanding and inclusive’. That sounds a lot like the evidence we gathered on why #LibrariesAreEssential too!
  • Seed libraries let us combine our place at their heart of our communities with promoting sustainable consumption and locally-produced food. Glasgow Women’s Library, for example, welcomed visitors back after lockdown by hosting a collaboration with Glasgow Seed Library, allowing library users to pick up free packets of seeds along with advice for how to get growing. Glasgow Seed Library continues to be a free resource available to anyone who wants to get started – all they ask is that you aim to return some seeds at the end of the season in order to quite literally germinate the project next year!
  • Boulder Public Library in the United States also runs a ‘Seed to Table’ initiative through which library users can take home up to five free packets of vegetable, herb or flower seeds: even more essential for those who may struggle to access affordable and healthy food from other sources.
  • The Nature Library is a pop-up reading space connecting people to land, sky and sea. Appearing in public spaces across Scotland, its travelling shelves hold many branches of nature writing from the classic to the contemporary, fiction and non fiction, memoir, poetry and children’s books. Click here to follow its journey!
  • ‘The building is attached to the rock face, the river runs along the other side of the structure, and there is even a tree growing through the roof.’ Zheshui Natural Library is located in the Taihang Mountains, Shanxi, and was both commissioned and constructed by the villagers who use it. Click here to learn more about this environmentally conscious (not to mention incredibly beautiful) library: the well-deserved winner of the 2021 Design Educates Award for architectural design.
  • Can you believe that cake was mentioned on UK television ten times more often than climate change during 2020? Or that pizza enjoyed more mentions than plastic and pollution put together? The Albert ‘Subtitles to Save the World’ Report reveals what issues are (and aren’t) receiving adequate attention in British media coverage. Thank goodness for libraries and all the essential work they do to promote relevant, responsible and evidence-based information!
  • Have you ever wanted to see Iceland’s precious glaciers, dive underwater to meet dolphins or encounter Rwanda’s Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat? East Renfrewshire Libraries are using their Virtual Reality kit and credentials to let library users enjoy these once-in-a-lifetime experiences, whilst learning more about the dire need for climate action if the world’s natural treasures are to be preserved for future generations. Click here to find out what virtual visions are on offer at a library near you, or discover more about how East Renfrewshire are utilizing VR to make a real-life difference here.
  • ‘Climate action needs culture…’ Creative Carbon Scotland joined forces with leading Scottish cultural institutions Creative Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Museums Galleries Scotland, National Galleries Scotland, the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish Library and Information Council to deliver this unified message about the often overlooked potential of the cultural sector to fight the climate emergency. Watch their wonderful video here.
  • The climate crisis is literally worldwide, with international cooperation and collaboration key to enacting the systemic changes necessary. CILIPS were delighted to be interviewed for this article by Annika Clemens, written during her time in Glasgow as a COP26 attendee and published in Sweden’s Biblioteksbladet. Click here to read the full piece (translation available!)
  • As articulated by our CILIPS22 sustainability panellist Dr Emily Munro, climate anxiety and grief can be a significant challenge for activists (making the safe, supportive spaces that libraries provide even more critical). The Climate Psychology Alliance addresses the psychological aspects of the ecological emergency with a Youth Activist Support Programme, supportive events and podcasts, and other helpful resources. See also the work of the Climate Psychology Alliance Scotland.

From Little Acorns Grow Great Oaks… Small, Sustainable Changes for All

  • Climate Museum UK is a mobile and digital museum that brings together people from across the UK to champion sustainability and raise awareness of the earth crisis. Founded by Director Bridget McKenzie (who spoke eloquently at #CILIPS21 about the essential role libraries can play in inspiring positive change), the Climate Museum UK website offers some helpful and practical advice for making positive changes. Check out their alternative ideas for events and celebrations (think sustainable catering and no balloons!) or their top picks for low-footprint living.
  • They have also created this fascinating guide to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – essential reading for anyone who wants to prove to their library community that climate consciousness is a vital step which will benefit all. For instance, do you know why some research indicates that improved education for girls is the most effective climate action a country can take?
  • On the subject of climate change and gender (in)equality, did you know that greater female representation in national parliaments correlates with countries adopting more stringent and comprehensive climate policies? Read this blog by Sophie Robinson for Glasgow Women’s Library to learn more.
  • ‘Disabled voices need to be included and centred. Marginalised folk can’t be an afterthought, consulted on plans after the fact. We need to be setting the agenda, shaping demands, and helping to create solutions that meet everyone’s needs. We can’t build a future for everyone without everyone.’ Visit Friends of the Earth Scotland for this powerful blog about ableism in the environmental movement and what can be done to tackle it (for more on library accessibility or for resources to support you as a library professional with a disability, our Accessibility and Neurodiversity resource collection is here).
  • From language barriers to forced proximity to industrial polluters, ‘marginalised groups are most likely to experience the effects of climate change, and so, more likely to be impacted by it’. Learn more in this powerful blog post by Shondra Riley.
  • This BBC article also asked eco-bloggers to share their recommendations for how to integrate sustainability into our daily lives. The advice is broken down into ‘fashion’, ‘food’, ‘beauty’ and ‘travel’. The Guardian likewise identified these ’50 simple ways’ to make your life greener – buy only what you need in every area is a common thread!
  • IFLA’s Environmental Sustainability and Libraries Special Interest Group (ENSULIB) presents an annual IFLA Green Library Award to a library committed to sustainability – and as anyone who attended the CILIP Ireland/Library Association of Ireland 2021 conference will know, University College Cork Library received special recognition in 2019! Their ‘Love Our Library’ campaign inspired positive change amongst staff and students through strategies like turning the lights off in low-traffic areas of the library during the summer months, installing a ‘Living Wall’ to harness many of the green health benefits outlined above and prohibiting disposable coffee cups (instead, library users can bring their own or buy sugar cane water bottles/bamboo mugs from the library desk). Investing in a dishwasher also meant that library meetings and events did not need to use disposable cups and plates – saving an incredible 1000 of them every month!
  • And in other fantastic green film news, ‘Living Proof: A Climate Story’ employs archive footage from the National Library of Scotland evocatively portrays a country shaped by demands for energy and economic growth. Directed by Dr Emily Munro, the film reveals Scotland’s post-war history as seen through the lens of current debate, inviting audiences on a journey to both revisit the promises of the past and consider how they relate to our future on this planet. Find out more here.
  • The Scottish Library and Information Council have populated this great Climate Resources page with links and advice from Greenpeace, Nature Scot, Young People’s Trust for the Environment and many more organisations. Check them out right here!

Building on from COP26, we’ll continue to research the best strategies for Scottish libraries that want to enhance their environmental credentials. From what we’ve learned so far, here are three top tips from CILIPS:

  1. Librarians are leaders! Whatever your sector, your users look to you to set an example – if you show them that being green is both achievable and valuable, they’re far more likely to follow suit. Sit your reusable water bottle/coffee cup proudly on your desk, minimize food waste by bringing a packed lunch in a beeswax wrap (bonus point if you manage a meat-free Monday!) and switch off your tech when you’re not using it (this can be tricky, we know, but you’ll enjoy that lunchtime even more without constant emails flashing up).
  2. Speaking of plastic… reduce, reuse, recycle is the mantra of the environmental movement, and this should apply to our library collections too. Of course, no one wants to reduce the amount of resources on offer to our users, but Covid-19 has resulted in so many library services expanding their digital provisions, make sure that as life returns to normal you’re still reminding users of all that’s out there virtually. And as for reuse, well, why should charity shops have all the fun? Start a campaign calling for book donations, especially recent fiction releases that we’re all guilty of speed-reading only once. You could even combine your donations drive with a seed library initiative like the ones outlined above – no marked pages/a title less than two years old earns the gifter a free packet of seeds! For recycling, we understand that having books wrapped in plastic can keep them protected for longer, so make sure you’re reusing covers wherever possible. Helsinki’s libraries have even managed to stop their plastic cover use altogether, instead introducing a locally made sugar cane material. Special thanks to Kathleen Milne and all at Western Isles Libraries for sourcing two self-adhesive options for book covers that are available here in Scotland – one by Pelloplast through The Design Concept and the other by Neschen. If readymade covers are what your service needs, remember to keep highlighting the demand for greener resources to your suppliers – if it helps, feel free to mention that the CILIPS community is behind you!
  3. And finally, as the incredible case study of UCC Library demonstrates, there are small yet significant changes that we can make within our workplaces that add up to a meaningful impact. Is your energy provider as sustainable as they could be or could your mobile libraries run on electric power (hello to #BabyMcBookface, the small but perfectly formed electric new arrival to Orkney Library’s mobile service)! Whatever your sector, libraries can also make the most of their role at the heart of their communities – as an easily accessed recycling point, perhaps, or a place to promote local produce and other sustainable businesses nearby?

As Greta Thunberg says, ‘you are never too small to make a difference’, and with a membership of almost 1,200 professionals across Scotland and beyond, every small step taken by a CILIPS member will help to get Scotland where it needs to be in upholding our environmental responsibilities. We’re here to support you throughout and can’t wait to celebrate your successes!

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