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.


  1. Kathleen de la Pena McCook, 20. January 2007, 7:48

    Family on my mother’s side is from Willard New Mexico. I think there is a connection in NM to great visions, in and out, of sustainability.
    There has been extensive librarian commitment to sustainability predating Webjunction. Here are a few leads:
    See: “Sustainable Communities and the Roles of Librarians.” RUSQ. Spring 2003.
    Fred Stoss is a founding librarian in the sustainability & libraries movement.

    TERRY LINK (a librarian) is Director, Office of Campus Sustainability
    He was a speaker at the ALA Preconference on Sustainability.

    the site is maintained by the Task Force on the Environment (TFOE), which is affiliated with the Social Responsibilities Round Table, and ALA Round Table.
    ALA held a preconference,” Libraries Build Sustainable Communities project, a two-year grant-funded partnership between the American Library Association (ALA) and Global Learning, Inc.”

    info on Fred Stoss and sustainability is here:
    and here:

    See “A Librarian at the Kitchen Table” links to sustainabilyit
    A Place at the Table (ALA, 2000), pp. 29-32.

  2. Michael Wagner, 21. January 2007, 12:26

    Great questions raised here in the midst of grief that you don’t need to quickly shake.

    For five years I served clients as an Internet business strategist (whatever that is).

    I often told clients that “technology is a wonderful servant but a terrible master” and “your people skills will fail you long before your technology skills do”.

    Sustainable organizational/business life is a question I wrestle with too.

    Good to read your musing.

    Keep creating,

  3. Chrystie, 24. January 2007, 1:59

    thanks kathleen and michael – nice to see you both again.

  4. Kathleen de la Pena McCook, 29. January 2007, 17:53


    To support IFLA’s Statement on Libraries and Sustainable Development [IFLA Glasgow 2002] .

    Web address :
    >“Libraries and Sustainable Development: Perspectives on the Future” 12-14 July 2007Crowne PlazaKuching Sarawak MALAYIA .>The Malaysian Librarian Association will be hosting an International Conference 2007, July 12-14, 2007 at The Crowne Plaza Kuching, Sarawak,Malaysia.

    The theme of the conference is “Libraries and Sustainable
    >Development Perspectives on the Future”. The conference will provide and opportunity for practitioners and librarians to share experience and insights on libraries and sustainable development.
    >To support IFLA’s Statement on Libraries and Sustainable Development>[IFLA>Glasgow 2002]
    >To give new insights on libraries and sustainable development
    >To enhance the roles of libraries in sustainable development
    >initiatives. The organizing committee of International Conference 2007 invites submission of papers. >
    >The Organizing Committee of International Conference 2007 invites submission of papers.
    >Areas of Focus:
    >IFLA’s Statement on Libraries and Sustainable Development [IFLA Glasgow
    >New insights on libraries and sustainable development
    >Roles of libraries in sustainable development initiatives
    >For submission of paper abstract, these are the requirements: –
    >Abstract must be received by 15 February 2007.
    >Abstract should be submitted through email to or
    > or or
    > or faxed to +60 82 665156 in a Microsoft Word
    >Please observe the following information during the submission process:
    >Name and contact details of author, including email address
    >Author’s name and affiliation (institution/s you work for)
    >Abstract title
    >Abstract (at least 300 words)
    >Short biography of author (maximum 50 words)


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