On Sustainable Libraries

Environmental sustainability has always been a topic that’s very close to my heart. When I was in 6th grade, my social studies class completed a major project on rainforest destruction, and I vividly remember having a revelatory moment after school one day while working on this project, realizing just how fragile our planet is and how unbelievably important it is to protect it, not abuse it. And while I’ve done my very utmost to block all memories of middle school (the horror), this one has stuck with me. Protecting the environment has become a subject that I am extremely passionate about, and one that has influenced everything from the lifestyle choices that I make to the values that I try to live by on a daily basis. While I was excited about entering the field of librarianship when I first applied for the MLS program here, there was always a part of me that regretted not pursuing a career that was more environmentally-minded.  But recently, I discovered groups like the American Library Association’s Sustainability Round Table, and Special Library Association committees like Environment and Resource Management Division, and it hit me that being a librarian and pursuing a career that protects the environment are not mutually exclusive goals. With the relative freedom I had to pick my courses for my final semester here at IU, I decided to complete an independent study to learn more about sustainability initiatives within the library field, and how I could become more involved in these efforts as a new professional.

Sustainability is one of those terms that’s seemingly ubiquitous in modern discourse, but becomes somewhat tricky to define when you look at it closely. Perhaps one of the most foundational definitions comes from the 1987 Brundtland Report by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, which defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Ch. 2, p. 1). While this definition certainly speaks to issues surrounding environmental conservation, it also ties into issues of economic equality and social equity.  In fact, some sustainability activists often refer to the “Three E’s” of sustainability – economy, ecology, and equity – to emphasize that creating a truly sustainable community involves more than simply protecting the environment, but also ensuring economic stability and social justice for all members of that community (Social Responsibilities Round Table, n.d.). While the “ecology” aspect is the specific area that I am most heavily interested in, I’ve learned that it’s important to remember that environmental health is closely connected with economic and social justice issues, especially when making decisions that will affect a community. Environmental decisions often have some kind of economic implication, and it’s important to find solutions that address both environmental and economic concerns, instead of pitting one against the other. Likewise, issues like environmental racism have not received nearly enough attention and need be emphasized much more in sustainability discourse if we are truly committed to building communities that meet the needs of both present and future generations.

Within the context of librarianship, it turns out that sustainability can be incorporated into a library’s mission in several ways. The American Library Association (2015), in its Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries, recognized the “unique role libraries play in wider community conversations about resiliency, climate change, and a sustainable future” (p. 2). As Henk (2014) explains in her work Ecology, Economy, Equity: A Path to a Carbon-Neutral Library, sustainability fits in well with core library values of supporting education and literacy, access to information, and democratic values like equality and intellectual freedom. But how exactly can libraries make their own spaces and surrounding communities more sustainable, and promote economic equality, social equity, and environmental protection? That’s mainly what I’m learning about this semester, and I am so excited by all of the different ways that libraries can get involved. On a general scale, ensuring access to a wide variety of information on sustainability and sustainability-related issues is key. Actions like tailoring collection development strategies to build a stronger collection of sustainability resources and supporting open access journals that provide sustainability research are two ways that libraries can ensure access. But there’s so much more! Libraries across the country have been doing some amazing work, from creating library community gardens that provide educational classes while protecting valuable plant life, to providing cooking courses that teach basic culinary skills while also supporting math and literacy development, to creating open-access repositories for sustainability research, to designing library buildings that are more energy-efficient … the list goes on and on. Creating sustainable libraries and sustainable communities is a monumental task, but there are a seemingly endless number of ways that libraries can begin to take action and help make this goal a reality.

When I went to the annual “Eco Fest” in DC several years ago, I remember seeing a slogan that read “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” I try to remember that saying, especially when the world’s problems seem overwhelming and insurmountable. None of those libraries mentioned above can take on every sustainable action possible, just as no library can make their communities sustainable single-handedly. But each of those libraries has taken a step forward, finding ways to make their spaces and communities a little more sustainable and forging new relationships with their surrounding communities and institutions in support of that goal. All together, those small actions taken by libraries (and the librarians working in them) across the country can make a big impact. After these first couple weeks of my independent study, I’m already so inspired by the work being done by libraries across the country and hopeful that libraries will continue to do more to make our communities more sustainable and resilient. I’m excited to keep learning, and eventually, to contribute what I can as a professional librarian. 

– Sarah Klimek

American Library Association. (2015). “Resolution on the importance of sustainable libraries.” http://www.ala.org/aboutala/sites/ala.org.aboutala/files/content/governance/council/council_documents/2015_annual_council_documents/cd_36_substainable_libraries_resol_final.pdf

Henk, M. (2014). Ecology, economy, equity: The path to a carbon-neutral library. Chicago: ALA Editions. 12-14.

Social Responsibilities Round Table, American Library Association. (n.d.). “Three dynamics of sustainable communities: Economy, ecology, and equity.” http://www.ala.org/srrt/tfoe/lbsc/librariesbuildsustainablecommunitiesthree

U.N. World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). Our common future: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Retrieved from http://www.un-documents.net/wced-ocf.htm

Bursting at the Seams with Costume Resources

[Chicago Daily News ice carnival with woman wearing a patriotic costume and a man wearing a Middle Eastern costume]. Chicago Daily News, January 19, 1929. From American Memory, Library of Congress.
[Chicago Daily News ice carnival with woman wearing a patriotic costume and a man wearing a Middle Eastern costume]. Chicago Daily News, January 19, 1929. From American Memory, Library of Congress.

Have you ever looked at an illustration of the book The Great Gatsby, and wondered how to describe what the characters are wearing? Have you ever thought to look up how members of the Azande culture dress versus the Burundi culture? Or how one might costume a production of the eighteenth-century play She Stoops to Conquer? Or even brainstorming what to wear this coming Halloween?

Costume research is relevant to a variety of disciplines: from theater and drama, to fashion design, history, anthropology, folklore, English, and art history. Next time you are considering a research topic in the aforementioned areas, perhaps a topic in costume could fit the bill?

If so, IU libraries has you covered – we have all kinds of print and electronic resources designed to help you answer these kinds of questions and more.

Electronic resources


Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion

This is a magisterial resource, literally encyclopedic in its coverage. Remember, this database is available only on campus, so make a note to visit next time you’re on campus–otherwise you can find more information on downloading a VPN for your computer or device here.

eHRAF World Cultures (also known as eHRAF Collection of Ethnography)

A database devoted to world cultures produced by the research agency Human Relations Area Files. It has a great browsing function for ethnic groups. This database is a little complicated to search – make sure to capitalize on the help pages in order to use it most effectively.


A great resource for images across a variety of disciplines. Use the Advanced Search option to search or browse within the Fashion, Costume and Jewelry classification.


A consortium of art museums that brings together images of some of the finest works of art. For our purposes today, right on the main page is a link that will enable you to search within Costume and Jewelry.


American Memory

The Smithsonian Institution has compiled a huge and endlessly fascinating digital library from their permanent collections. Don’t stop at costume – look at photography, early film, folkways, and all kinds of amazing content!

American Periodicals Online

This resource is incredibly useful for all kinds of primary source research, as it compiles over a thousand serials, fulltext, with dates ranging from 1740 to 1900.

Great Britain

British Periodicals

Another great primary source database, this time for the British Isles. While you’re at it, check out Eighteenth Century Journals, C-19, and Nineteenth Century UK Periodicals!

VADS or Visual Arts Data Service

This is a great resource for all manner of visual arts. Major museums and archives throughout Great Britain have contributed their collections to this online archive, making it a rich and worthwhile use of your valuable research time.

London Low Life

This is a great resource, not only because it offers all kinds of primary source materials, but also because it is partially compiled from items held in the Lilly Library! Part of the digitization agreement stipulated that IU users could access this database free of charge – so go ahead, what are you waiting for?


IUCAT is where to go for books at IU. Remember that this searches all libraries in the Indiana University system (Bloomington, yes, but also Fort Wayne, Columbus, and South Bend, among others), so make careful note of where books are located.

One great way to find reference sources in print is to use the Reference Room Quicksearch – you can search for reference materials held only in the Reference Reading Room of Herman B Wells Library. A list of records with the subject term “costume” can be found here. Spending a few hours with these books will kickstart your research efficiently and effectively. Plus, you’ll always know they’ll be in the stacks, because reference room materials don’t circulate (unless you ask the staff at the Reference Desk nicely).

Here is a list of records held at Fine Arts Library with all books under the subject heading “costume.” Using Advanced Keyword Search, you can type in “costume” as your subject heading, while using other search terms to narrow your search – like “United States,” or “19th Century,” or what whatever you happen to be interested in. Use the keyword search if you are not sure how to phrase your search term.

And one final reminder about books – your field of knowledge is certainly not limited to local holdings. Simply use Worldcat to find many more sources about your topic. Each record has a link to request items using our Document Delivery/Interlibrary Loan Services, enabling you to request books from many different libraries.

A hot tips for your searching serendipity: remember to think of relevant synonyms for your search strategies. Many catalogs use the subject term “costume,” but others could use “dress,” “garb,” “clothes” or “clothing,” especially if you have delved into unmediated internet searching. If one search doesn’t work, try another related term to see if anything relevant returns.

Never forget – librarians are here to help! Ask now!!


Graduates Made Good

With commencement just days away, it’s safe to say emotions are high for a number of soon-to-be graduates. Going through the cycles of joy, nostalgia, and sadness can be as taxing as a Friday night on Kirkwood. For some, there might be the additional cloud of an unknown future. Let’s face it: Change can be scary!

While the library has a great Career Reference section on the library homepage that you should definitely take advantage of, it’s also nice to think about the IU alumni who have gone on to make their mark on the world. And probably a bit more fun.

So, whether you’re off to new adventures or have a little more time left in Bloomington, why not check out a few of these Hoosier-riffic resources?

If you’re looking to forget about your last final with a good film, check out Kevin Kline (’70) in A Fish Called Wanda or music man Hoagy Carmichael (’25) in To Have and Have Not. While it doesn’t feature any IU alum on screen, The Princess Diaries is based on the young adult fiction series by Meg Cabot (’91) and can be found at a number of the residence hall/apartment libraries.

If sports are your thing, you might be interested in Dick Enberg, Oh My!, the autobiography of long-time announcer Dick Enberg (who earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in health sciences at IU and voiced the first radio broadcast of the Little 500). You could also use the Biography in Context database to learn more about broadcaster Joe Buck (’91), Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz (’72), and colorful billionaire businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (’81).

Twentieth-century novelist Theodore Dreiser dropped out of Indiana in 1890 without earning a degree, but you can pick up Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy at the Herman B Wells Library. For non-fiction reading, you can check out current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ book, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. He received an M.A. in history from IU in 1966).

Other famous IU alumni you might know include Jamie Hyneman from the TV show MythBusters, former U.S. Senator and current Fox News commentator Evan Bayh, and New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz. The IU Archives has a full run of the student yearbook, the Arbutus, from 1894 to present day. See how many famous people you can find!


Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Banned Books Week is this week (September 26th-October 3rd). The week celebrates the First Amendment and our freedom to read, while taking the time to acknowledge and bring attention to banned and attempted banning of books across the United States.

Here is a list of the top ten banned books in 2008 from the ALA (American Library Association):

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
    Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group


  1. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
    Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence


  1. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group


  1. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence


  1. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence


  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group


  1. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group


  1. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
    Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group


  1. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group


  1. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
    Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group


Banned Books Week brings up many questions about censorship, intellectual freedom, and the stance of Libraries on both issues. If anyone would like to read any of the books on the top ten list above, they are available in the Education Library. A search on IUCat showed that IUB has most of the books on the list and they are in the Education Library.

Also, the Monroe County Library (located on Kirkwood) also has the books on the List. Search there Catalog here: http://mcpl.monroe.lib.in.us/Search/default.aspx?ctx=1.1033.0.0.7.

Please stay tuned and watch the Library boards and campus news for IUB Library events concerning Banned Books Week.

For more information about the events and Banned Books Week, here are two websites.



For more information on Intellectual Freedom and what Libraries say about censorship, here are two websites.