Reflections on social aspects of sustainability as seen from my own profession
My own professional background is library and information science. When reading my notes from our lecture again, I was surprised how many of the concepts and topics apply to public libraries: sharing economy, public space, access to resources, education, employability, personal well-being, limiting consumption...
The consideration of the role of humanity in climate change and the notion of sustainable development are core concerns of society, and consequently of libraries (Source: IFLA, Environment, Sustainability and Libraries Special Interest Group).
Sharing economy and access to resources are concepts inherent to public libraries: Lend instead of own, share and re-use instead of keep to yourself. Increasingly, "libraries of things" enable limiting consumption. Example: In one branch of the Vienna Public Libraries, library card owners can lend tools, technical devices, musical instruments, toys, and sports equipment without an extra fee. Other libraries provide "seed libraries" where seeds from traditional plants can be borrowed.
Libraries as public spaces are considered a "third place" apart from home and work. In many areas, they are the only places without pressure to buy/consume. They are open to private persons, but also to one-person companies without an own office. In libraries, people can read, work, relax, think, meet, listen, be silent, search, find. A related role could be climate change adaption: Public libraries in big cities have a history of constituting "warm rooms" for homeless people or people who cannot afford to heat their homes. In the future, "cool rooms" will be needed. In Vienna, the Red Cross started offering so-called cooling centres in malls – air-conditioned rooms where people can recover from the heat, especially in times where the night temperatures stay high. These could also be provided by – or in cooperation with – libraries.
Libraries offer a range of media that can be used for education (and resulting employability) as well as for personal well-being, e.g. for entertainment, distraction, or relaxation. Libraries could align their collection development policies to include media about the wide field of social, ecological, and economic sustainability. Library buildings can be built or adapted following green building standards.
Recapitulating, libraries are an epitome of social sustainability :-)