ALIA Blog Article

ALIA Blog: ALIA Sustainable Libraries Group’s National Conference 2022 Wrap

Wednesday 13 July: With my ‘ALIA Sustainable Libraries’ hat on, I sat in on three of the sustainability focused papers at the National Conference, and soaked up the current thoughts, trends and projects going on across Australia. 
What can we learn from the ‘green’ focused presentations at ALIA National? 

Green is the way to go: Sustainability practises for your library

 Dr Kasey Garrison, Dr Sabine Wardle and Dr Jane Garner – Charles Sturt University (CSU)

These CSU academics have been conducting case studies across NSW and Victorian public libraries, with a view to collate information and make recommendation about practises that can be employed by libraries now and into the future. Highlighted examples include:

  • Woollahra Public Libraries’ Community Green Collaborations project created a Green Spark event delivering horticultural and permaculture information from professionals, and giving away plants to members of the community
  • Charles Sturt University is officially Australia’s first carbon neutral university.
  • The group noted that many libraries canvassed are now examining the green credentials of their suppliers in more detail.
  • The National Library highlights the fact that older buildings pose challenges for sustainable refits, however, they have had some success with repurposing insulation and furniture. The NLA highlights the fact that good environment management requires continuous staff training, volunteers and contractors. With Canberra is leading the nation on recycling, this means that there is a positive mindset across the territory.
  • Looking further afield, the New York Public Library re-opened a main circulation library in June 2021, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library building, which was renovated with sustainability as a priority.
  • Also in the US, the Sustainable Libraries Initiative provides tools and resources for libraries interested in sustainability, and promotes best practise and collaboration across library services. There is not currently a similar organisation in Australia, which is a huge opportunity area.

Make do and mend – how we created an INFLA shortlisted Green Library
Melissa Brown, Hobsons Bay Libraries

Bearing the enviable job title of Sustainability Librarian, Melissa shared her experience of creating and continuing the Hobsons Bay EnviroCentre. The EnviroCentre is attached to the Altona Library branch and with energy efficient measures put in place at the EnviroCentre, they have reduced emissions by an amazing 80%. 
Partnering with numerous local environmental groups has enabled the centre to form a centralised hub of contacts and information for residents and visitors, along with a comprehensive borrowable collection of technological devices such as draught finders, thermal cameras to identify heat loss from homes, and nature viewers. 

Greening Libraries – Environmental sustainability through Victorian Public Libraries and beyond
Jac Torres-Gomez, Wyndham City Council, Rachel D’Arcy, Brimbank Libraries, Jessica Anderson, Goulburn Valley Libraries and Jacqueline Auhl, Hume Libraries.

This group of young library professionals met through the Shared Leadership Program. They provided a thoughtful and inspiring account of their work and observations of green activities across Victoria’s public libraries. They have created a vibrant special interest group with 60+ members, sharing information about all things sustainable, while focusing on the practicalities and keeping this information accessible. 

They opened with Jane Goodall famously talking about the need to act local if you want to have any positive impact at all. Exemplifying this they produced examples of Victorian Public Libraries bringing sustainable green practises to their members, including:

  • Shepparton Libraries ‘s National Tree Day Storytime where each family receives a tree to plant
  • Wyndham Seed Library supporting biodiversity and food security through supporting skills in domestic agriculture and seed conservation
  • Hume Libraries’ Grasslands Festival where local artists display and sell their work centred on the Evans Street Grasslands nature reserve. Libraries promote related collection items and members receive native grass punnets for planting

The group is eager to hear from any interested persons with ideas. They are also members of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. 


In terms of a ‘green report’ on the conference itself, I’m glad to say there were no single use plastic water bottles in sight, as water and glasses were available in each room. Likewise, there were no disposable plates or cutlery as catering was provided through the Conference Centre. There were no plastic sleeves for lanyards, which was great, but a few name cards broke along the way, so a little room for improvement there. The conference program was only available digitally. While this is a good idea, the layout was difficult to navigate online, but a step in the right direction. 

The conference being held at the National Convention Centre, only a few hundred metres from the Crowne Plaza where the majority of delegates appeared to be staying, meant we used our feet for transport. 

I did express my concern to one of the vendors who was giving away bags with pictures of cats and books, pointing out the devastating effect feral cats have on the natural environment. The vendor said he would pass my concerns on. 

Donna Kellion, Digital Literacy & Young Adult Librarian at Mackay Regional Council Libraries