Back from New Mexico

I’m back from my family trip to New Mexico, but quite exhausted. My grandmother’s will requested a full day’s wake, then memorial service, then next day burial service. Following the white hearse the long ride from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, I felt spookily like I had been transported into an episode of six feet under (which is much more fabulous when it’s on tv). Her house and belongings now wait for hours of sorting, resorting, and distribution amongst her two children and ten grandchildren. While visiting her house the night before I came home, I learned that my grandmother had classified her personal collection by the DDC (seriously?), including a somewhat jumbled card catalog and check-out slips for each title. I brought home a few titles, and a stack of blank catalog cards. I’m finding that I can’t precisely shake the grief (when is that supposed to happen?), though I think I may be moving into acceptance rather soon.
Meanwhile, I write. I’m working now on the concept of sustainability and how it pertains to community building and library services. So far, I’ve been surprised to find that the only library orgs talking about “sustainability” (with this term) is WebJunction (Rural Library Sustainability Program) and ALA (Public Funding and Technology Access Study). Are there others that you know of? Pray tell.

Both of these projects are funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who talks about sustainability a lot (no less than 18 of their 2002 library grants reference “sustainability” specifically). Cindi Hickey’s Building a Sustainable Future is the only blog I found dedicated to the topic for libraries; it was prompted by Kansas State Library’s participation in WebJunction’s rural program.
The Gates Foundation has certainly moved the conversation on public access computing away from hardware and software towards sustainability (of all of it: technology, training, programs, and support for the library) and I wonder if the lis-blogosphere will follow suit? When does technology become so integrated into library practice that it’s not really the focus of our conversations anymore? If we were to turn our attention to sustainability (instead of technology? alongside technology?), would we be better for it?

These (kinda new to me) ideas are related to the approach that Steven and I agreed upon for this book: community building is not about technology, though that’s where we come from (in general) as library professionals. We felt strongly that the community-building we’re both a part of through our tech-advocacy is in principle the same kind of activity that successful libraries have been practicing for years, even without flickr or you tube! Effective libraries are connecting with people, discovering and meeting needs, and consistently evaluating their own progress towards goals. What has this to do with technology? Not much except that sometimes we use technology to facilitate some or all of the above. What has this to do with sustainability? Seems like a lot.