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Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State (2023 Edition)

Content from the latest edition of the Trustee Handbook.

An Introduction to Sustainability as a Core Value

“Climate change is the single greatest threat to global health, a “code red for humanity,” and is this generation’s grandest challenge.” 
-Sustainability in Libraries: A Call to Action, American Library Association 

In 2019 the American Library Association (ALA) added the concept of sustainability to the list of core values for libraries. This action has its roots in New York State with the New York Library Association leading the way with its Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries which was passed in 2014. ALA passed their own Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries in 2015, building on the work of NYLA. 

Sustainability was named a core value in recognition of the fact that the immediate consequences of climate change were far more dire than originally predicted, and that the world’s climate scientists have been calling for action on this front with much greater urgency than has been shown to date. 

Climate change is a complex issue that is not simply about good environmental stewardship. It has deep ties to economic decisions, large and small, as well as many impacts on humans, particularly exacerbating existing inequities in our global and local societies. 

Triple bottom line framework, depicted by three intersecting circles labeled "environmentally sound," "socially equitable," and "economically feasible." The triple overlapped section is labeled with "Sustainability."

ALA has adopted the “triple bottom line” conceptual framework of sustainability (shown left): “To be truly sustainable, an organization or community must embody practices that are environmentally sound AND economically feasible AND socially equitable.”

This framework calls on Boards to consider the impact of decisions they are making on behalf of the library and the community through this lens.
Budget, policy, facility, personnel, and partnership choices all intersect with this framework and a mindset of making better decisions at the nexus of our planet, our local and global communities, and our taxpayers.