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BCONE Meets A New Category of Professional Allies: Librarians

06 Oct 2021 2:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Binghamton University Libraries Grant:   A Springboard to Accelerative Sustainability Education & Practice

By Steve Dwyer 

Editor’s Note: BCONE’s Executive Director was part of an invigorating discussion this summer with Jen Embree, Neyda Gilman, and Carrie Blabac-Myers, Development Officer for the Binghamton University Libraries. Librarians were not a group that BCONE had ever considered as brownfield remediation and redevelopment allies, but this summer’s discussion  generated ideas for possible future projects including  additional learning and teaching opportunities for students seeking environmental careers.

Learn more about Embree and Gilman in the article, below,  as well as in this this piece from Binghamton University: 

At Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y., two subject librarians are quickly becoming sustainability evangelists in their daily involvement with faculty, staff and students—all via new tools and measures that came about after the university libraries received a primary grant from the American Library Association. The grant, which was announced last fall, provides additional resources and motivation for the libraries to expand sustainability-related work that had already started to some degree.

Neyda Gilman and Jen Embree, both subject librarians at Binghamton, are setting a course to carry out sustainability best practices at the university, and are eager to see how the grant from last fall will make inroads into that effort.

Efforts along the sustainability spectrum are curbing carbon emissions, water efficiency, waste reduction, biodiversity, sustainable building design, wind and solar energy, crop rotation, geothermal practices and fostering an assurance of more green spaces in the urban infill.

From a brownfield environmental remediation perspective, professionals are always seeking ways to implement better and more efficient green and sustainable cleanup strategies.  

Both Gilman and Embree do not have “official” sustainability education or training; but, both have long been strong proponents for sustainable practices. With this grant, the university libraries program can set out to accelerate broad practices and in turn receive university-level buy-in. 

Multi-faceted components

The primary goal of the ALA grant is to “help libraries engage their communities in programs and conversations that address the climate crisis.”

At Binghamton, the distinction of the ALA grant—something that adds clarity and relevance—is the fact that the university serves as only one of five academic libraries in the U.S. to receive it, as all 20 other recipients are U.S.-based local public libraries. (Binghamton U. is the lone academic library in New York State to receive the full grant.) 

Among the resources that Binghamton University can now implement on the road to preaching sustainable living is an expanding DVD library offering access to several climate related films. Most of these will be used for streaming events.

Some themes include, “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change,” “Decoding the Weather Machine” and “Chasing Ice.” Some sustainability-related events and activities will be available throughout campus, and the grant will see an advancement of the Binghamton University Seed Library, says Gilman. 

The Seed Library, located in the Science Library on main campus, allows individuals to “borrow” seeds to grow with the intention of harvesting and returning seeds at the end of the season. Seed libraries have multiple benefits, including:

  • Promoting biodiversity, preserving genetic diversity;
  • Providing community members with seeds to grow healthy food to supplement their diet;
  • Supporting local seed-savers and gardeners; and
  • Encouraging increased engagement between the library and the community.

Anyone can come into the Binghamton University Science Library to access the Seed Library. Individuals can take seeds of each type of plant to grow, with seeds pre-divided into envelopes for ease. The university is providing tutorials on how to harvest seeds as well as have various events surrounding the topic. 

The Mission Expands

The actual grant sum for Binghamton Libraries is modest—$1,000—but it’s about more than the funds: One key intangible outgrowth of the grant is that the university will receive ongoing support from the ALA in its efforts, says Gilman. “The financial aspect helps us get started, but the grant equates to program prestige [via the ALA sanctioning it as such] and helps us market this program better,” says Gilman, who is assistant head of sustainability and STEM engagement, and has been at Binghamton University for five years.

Gilman says that while she doesn’t possess “formal” training in sustainability practices, she says practicing it has been “a personal calling for decades. I am very confident in the knowledge I have accumulated around sustainability practices.”

Prior to receiving the grant, Gilman says “sustainability was never part of our job description, so the grant came at a good time as we can now make it part of our job description,” says Gilman, who is the subject librarian supporting nursing and pharmaceutical schools at the university: It is in this role that the staff and faculty of these areas of learning can tap Gilman as the go-to resources as they further their research and study.

Embree serves as the sustainability hub coordinator, and has been with the university for three years. She is the subject librarian for biology, psychology and comparative literature, just to name three areas of education. A UCONN graduate, Embree has taken multiple classes in the sustainability field, and is now poised to use the grant to power up her knowledge through practice.

“The grant also serves as a way for Neyda and me to move forward in more of a team approach. You can do more—and it made us focus our energy better. We now also have an official Sustainability Hub,” she says. 

What lies ahead in 2021 and into 2022 for the libraries program is to disseminate the many tenets grounded in sustainable lifestyles, “sharing what is happening on campus, spreading it and getting people involved to learn. There are many people with an interest in sustainability that lack an easy way to obtain the knowledge and the tools. We have several platforms for them to obtain this knowledge now,” says Gilman. 

“What we want to accomplish is to maintain a sustainability culture among students and faculty—not just in the study curriculum but it’s a lifestyle thing. That is what we are trying to accomplish,” says Embree. 

Question for our Readers:  There must be additional professions which BCONE should add to its lists of  allies. Who and what are we missing?  Let us know of other amazing people you have encountered so BCONE can get to know them better.

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