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UMN Libraries’ Role in Sustainability and Climate Change Action

Across the nation, universities are coming together for Campus Sustainability Month– a month dedicated to celebrating sustainability in higher education. The month of October is dedicated to making campus sustainability efforts visible and creating a platform for environmental and sustainability advocates to create deeper connections on campus. The UMN Libraries have created a week of exciting events and programming for Global Climate Change Week to create deeper awareness about consumption and our impact beyond the communities around us.

Kristen Mastel, one of the outreach and instruction librarians, helps serve the Institute on the Environment, sustainability courses, extension staff, agricultural education, and staff and students in CCAPS. Kristen was also key in making the events and programming for Global Climate Change Week available. Read what she has to say about her role in sustainability and climate change programming at the libraries below.

What has your role been in coordinating Climate Change Week?

“So, I belong to the American Library Association Sustainability Round Table,  we’re a pretty active group, and we share stories and strategies. A couple weeks ago was climate preparedness week, so a lot of my colleagues did a lot of things around that week, and UMN libraries did a lot of social media posts and promoting around it. In December, the UN will have its climate talks, and October is Campus Sustainability Month. So, I thought that this week was good to showcase what’s in the library related to sustainability and climate change. The makerspaces at the libraries have make-your-own cutlery kits that you can sew together. Here at Magrath, we gave away 40 plants earlier today. We’ve also partnered with other libraries to highlight our collections and resources related to sustainability.

We do this programming because sustainability can be related to any course on campus, it’s a theme for everyone. Whether you’re looking at chemistry and green chemistry, or the environment and how plants thrive or adapt to climate change, or the migration of people due to climate disasters, we just want to highlight our different resources. If you look at any of the big natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, or blizzards, libraries play a central community partner for refuge, charging cell phones, staying warm or cool. It’s a safe space. If you can’t get home or to work, you can always go to the library. You see, in Minnesota, in extreme heat or extreme cold events, UMN Libraries have longer hours for people.”

Why do you think Climate Change Week is important for students?

“I believe libraries and education play a key role in supporting the sustainable development goals. Libraries support everything from equity and access issues and literacy related to information, communication, technology, knowledge, cultural heritage and more that directly impact sustainability choices and persons livelihoods. Libraries believe in it so much that we adopted sustainability as a core value to our profession in the American Library Association.

I also think it’s just a week to concentrate our efforts to raise awareness on what we can do as an individual and what we can do around us, in our neighboring communities, Minnesota communities, and beyond. In our activities, we can think beyond just our neighborhood, we can think about how our consumption can affect other communities. It’s also about how we can inform students, with the climate strikes and the upcoming voting season, about how you can be educated around environmental concerns and be informed at the polls. ”

Could you tell us a little about the “read this book” videos on the sustainability themed books you did last week?

“The libraries have a video series called “Read This Book” where different library staff and guests talk about books that have impacted them, books that we’ve just read, or to highlight them in our collection and get people to read them. We did three segments, the first segment should be coming out this week, but all three short segments are around sustainability. The first one is about nature and our environment. Into Nature: A Creative Field Guide and Journal has little activities to get outside and observe nature just for a little bit, or sit inside and look at nature. Just to encourage us to observe the world around us. There are a lot of studies about how being outside improves our health. I also talked about the Secret Life of Trees, like the underground networks of trees and how they communicate with one another. The next were two indigenous authors talking scientifically about nature and native people’s traditions and how they learn about nature. Then, I talked about a climate justice book by the former president of Ireland, and she isn’t indigenous, but she discusses how indigenous people and small groups can have big impacts. The last grouping is by the two Pulitzer prize authors who wrote The Sixth Extinction and The Overstory. Those two are great book club books, I mean, they’re just great books overall.”

What do you hope to achieve with the programming created by the libraries around sustainability and climate change?

“One goal I personally have is to build greater connections across campus. So the libraries can help the Institute on the Environment with their goals and strategic plan, and they can support us and our programming, again through this we’re building a stronger community. The second is to help students push forward sustainability plans on campus and beyond and how the libraries can help them in their research pursuits through our resources and programming in sustainability.”

Interested in participating in Global Climate Change Week? Check out the UMN Libraries calendar to find out when and where the next event is! Want to stay involved for the rest of Campus Sustainability Month and beyond? Check out UMN’s It All Adds Up campaign for more ideas on how to get involved with sustainability on campus.

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