Public Libraries Supporting Green

August 25th, 2022

The Peterborough Public Library's "book bike" at the farmers' market. Employee smiling infront of booth.

The Peterborough Public Library’s “book bike” at the farmers’ market. As well as encouraging literacy, environmental and otherwise, and supporting reuse by bring books to the community, the book bike is an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional gas-powered bookmobiles. (Peterborough Public Library)

By Mark Stewart, Library Services Manager at the Peterborough Public Library

The climate crisis story can be framed in many ways. You may be most familiar with the doom-and-gloom narrative of the crisis, which leads to feelings of overwhelm and disempowerment. In this narrative, we tend to focus on what we need to give up, rather than what we may gain.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Each of us can choose to look at the climate crisis as an opportunity to learn, a chance to reflect on our actions, and in the process, create a more livable world. The adage “knowledge is power” is as true as it ever was when learning about our actions amidst the climate crisis. Self-directed learning about climate resiliency and sustainability is an empowering antidote to the doom-and-gloom narratives we have come to know.

Sometimes, it feels as though the environment is something external to us, but the truth is, we are the environment. We breathe it, eat it, and drink it every day. We are inextricable from it. The actions we take can shape it for better or for worse.

We can learn to adapt our actions so that they work within and benefit our environment rather than work against and deteriorate it. Every action we make has an impact, large and small, positive, and negative. These actions are cumulative and cascading, and they affect the behaviour of everyone around us. Your beautiful vegetable and pollinator gardens do inspire others to grow their own.

We are at a point in history that calls us to make changes, learn new ways, and adapt. We need to build our resiliency to weather the changes unfolding in our environment. Answering this call will take some work and some courage, but it can also be fun! Learning new ways to incorporate sustainable practices and resiliency into your life can bring hope to yourself and others around you, shifting away from the doom-and-gloom.

So, where do you begin when you need to learn something new? One of the best places is your local public library.

A native pollinator garden outside the Peterborough Public Library with yellow and purple blooms.

The Library Commons Garden beds are being converted into native plant and pollinator gardens which can be enjoyed by the public and pollinators, alike. (Photo by Peterborough Library)

Libraries support all forms of literacy, including environmental literacy. The North American Association for Environmental Education defines environmental literacy as “an awareness of and concern about the environment and its associated problems, as well as the knowledge, skills, and motivations to work toward solutions for current problems and the prevention of new ones”.

Your local library has a wealth of practical information, informative books, videos, and other resources that can support environmental literacy. It is a place where you can find the most up-to-date information as we search for solutions and ways forward with the world.

The right book or resource at the right time can change your life. Whether you are looking to understand the emotional aspects of dealing with the climate crisis, are looking for practical how-to information about retrofitting your home, or even want to start growing an organic garden, there is a wealth of information free to access and borrow for those with a library card.

Public libraries have always been a big part of the borrowing economy. Borrowing items, rather than purchasing new ones, saves energy and resources required for production. Each book and item in the library is reused and enjoyed safely by many people. Consider all the trees that are saved by borrowing books rather than purchasing new ones.

Public libraries may also offer community meeting places for exchanging ideas about climate resiliency and building connections. If you’re passionate about sustainability and would like to help guide others, you can get in touch with library staff about running a program, or starting a sustainability group in a library’s meeting spaces.

Like all libraries, the Peterborough Public Library is at the heart of the community. This community includes the plants, insects, birds, and other wildlife we people share our environmental spaces with. That’s why we’ve been partnering with the Peterborough and Area Master Gardeners to convert the Library Commons Garden beds into native plant and pollinator gardens.

Story-Time in the Park at Rogers Cove. People sitting in the grass listening around a speaker.

Being climate-resilient is for all ages. Library programs can be taken outside, like Story-Time in the Park at Rogers Cove. (Photo by Peterborough Library)

The library continues to offer up sustainable opportunities that can help you become more climate resilient. A new Book Bike will be out on the streets and in the parks of Peterborough starting this summer, bringing books onto the road to those who haven’t been to the library. The bike is a fossil-fuel-free, climate-resilient alternative to the traditional bookmobile which often uses gasoline.

The library is also incorporating more sustainability topics into our regular programming as well as expanding our Library of Things – where you can borrow items that help promote climate resiliency such as Ontario Parks Passes, Watt Readers, and more!

If you’re interested in learning more about climate crisis resiliency and sustainability and are looking for ways to make positive changes in your life, your local library is here to support you. With help from the library, self-directed learning is a powerful way to build resiliency and adapt to the reality of our changing climate. Just bring your curiosity – and remember to have fun!

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