Sustainable California Libraries

A guest post by Julianna Robbins, Library Programs Consultant, California State Library

According to a June 2022 poll from NextGen California, climate / environment was ranked as the top issue for likely California voters — above inflation, homelessness, and crime and public safety. California libraries and communities are already feeling the impacts of climate change. What are California libraries doing to actively address the need for information and community connections on climate, wildfires, drought, pollution, habitat protection, biodiversity and more?

Do you wish you could do more, but struggle with staffing and lack of funding? Do you feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the issues? At this “everyone in” moment in time, we all can play an important role in shifting to more sustainable programs, services, and buildings. Below are a few ways you might get involved today, at whatever level of involvement feels right and at the capacity you have.

Building Momentum: Steps You Can Take Now – from (almost) any level in the library
  • Join the Sustainable Thinking for the Future of Libraries 1-hour free webinar on Wednesday, July 20 at 11:00 AM. In this webinar, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich will explore the importance of infusing the new core value of sustainability into everything we do and demonstrate how libraries can lead into the future using ‘sustainable thinking’ to fulfill our mission.
  • Apply for the NEW LSTA-funded Sustainable California Libraries themed grant which provides libraries the opportunity to design programming and educational opportunities focused on sustainability and climate resilience, by collaborating with project partners, community connections, and community members. Libraries may apply for awards of between $10,000 – $30,000 per project. Review program and partnership ideas and share your suggestions or questions at an upcoming information session, July 20 or August 17. Applications are due August 31, 2022.
  • Learn more about the California Strategic Growth Council Community Resilience Center Program which “will prioritize community-serving locations across the state, such as schools, libraries, community centers, health clinics, and places of worship.”
  • Bay Area Libraries – learn more about the Bay Area Resilient Libraries Network Initiative
  • Explore Project Drawdown’s Climate Solutions at Work
  • Get involved in the ALA Sustainability Roundtable
  • Form a green team at your library or join a city or county-wide group, reach out to your local California Green Business network, connect with community members, frontline organizations, and library staff across the state

Greg Lucas, California State Librarian, reminds us that neighborhood libraries serve an important role in community resilience. “Libraries and museums are unique in that people want to go visit them. So, whatever libraries are championing, or showcasing is going to be that much more accessible to visitors. If libraries walk the walk as well as talk the sustainability talk, the changes in behavior our communities need to make will come that much sooner.”

California libraries need more seats as the sustainability table. Are we ready to lead, listen, and engage with the urgent and essential mind shift to sustainability? Let’s continue the conversation and grow together. Please reach out to with ideas or questions.


Let’s Go Outside

CALL is happy to share professional development and programming opportunities related to the new Parks Pass program through the California State Library and California State Parks, as well as a special webinar on local science programming.

This year, all public libraries in California are receiving California State Library Parks Passes to circulate to their library card holders. Good for one car to access over 200+ California State Parks for free, this program will help remove barriers to park access and encourage health outcomes, natural resource stewardship, and cultural and historical connections across the state. Libraries are encouraged to host programs and conduct outreach to encourage these goals and complement their passes.

CALL and the California State Library will present a webinar about creative ways to support the goals of the Parks Pass program on Wednesday, April 6, from 1-2:30 p.m. This webinar will showcase California public library programs that celebrate outdoor access equity and community partnerships. The webinar also will introduce a new grant opportunity for library programs and initiatives that complement the passes.

Eager to start thinking about potential programming for outdoor learning? You’ll also love this week’s webinar on Using Neighborhood Science to Engage Your Community, on Tuesday, March 8, at 12 noon, with presenters from Los Angeles Public Library.

LAPL’s Neighborhood Science programming suggests that the first step to a sustainable environment is recognizing that environmental issues are not an abstract concept; they are all around us, endangering our health and wellbeing. Neighborhood Science projects and programs have enabled patrons of all ages to do real science in their own backyards on topics ranging from biodiversity loss to air and water quality to mosquitoes to night sky light pollution. Learn how you and your patrons can become bold Neighborhood Scientists, gathering and sharing scientific data that can raise awareness and change the world. What a great idea to connect to the Parks Pass opportunity!