Dutch Caribbean Librarians Show a Sustainable Way

ALA Members from the new Sustainability Round, the SRRT Task Force on the Environment and International Responsibilities Task Force, and librarians from around the world attended a panel discussion, “How the Dutch Caribbean Goes Green with Libraries and Other Supporters.” They heard about new and innovative means by which librarians working in the Dutch Caribbean Island nations of St. Maarten and Aruba developed, promote and sustain smart-energy and “green technologies and innovations” in their respective countries, and how these libraries advance environmental, planning and energy awareness as integral parts of their countries’ sustainability programs. 

Before his presentation, Drs. Geert Kooistra, a strategic spatial planner and process designer at “Planosfeer” in Breda in the Netherlands, provided a brief, concise, and entertaining description of the cultural geography of “Dutch,”  “Holland,” and “The Netherlands,” which is worth sharing with you, after reading this brief article (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eE_IUPInEuc) .  Drs. Kooistra provided a descriptive analysis of the roles librarians must play in dealing with a variety of conditions in a rapidly changing world and acknowledged the need for libraries to transform themselves, as they show early signs of “obsolescence.”  He suggested new strategies recognizing libraries as active community partners in response to the rapid changes in planning and described practices of sustainability as a means to break the deadlocks emerging from the access, distribution and subsequent use of energy, food, and other essential resources.

He proposed an enlightened and expanded concept of the neo-library as a highly specialized platform for integrating information resources sharing, as a critical component of a cogent collaboration of a community engagement process. He observed, “The library could be the place to turn to for (local) governments and other stakeholders (e.g. housing corporations and real estate developers) when seeking interaction with the community. They will maintain their function as guardians of cultural capital and knowledge. But beside that they could become active hubs of information and knowledge exchange, involved in education, awareness and public collaboration programs.”

Drs. Monique Alberts, Director of the Philipsburg Jubilee Library (St. Maarten), President of the Dutch Caribbean Library Association (DCLA) and a member of the Board of the Association of Caribbean Universities, Research and Institutional Libraries (ACURIL), described the process bringing a ten kilowatt solar panel array to the Philipsburg Jubilee Library. This installation is among the first steps in the ‘greening’ of St. Maarten’s energy consumption. The library’s expertise and experiences facilitating this installation serves as a model for future projects for schools and public buildings.

Panelists (Mrs.) Astrid Britten, Director of the National Library of Aruba DCLA Secretary and past-President and current Board Member of ACURIL, and  (Mr.) Ronny Alders, Assistant Librarian at the National Library of Aruba, Coordinator of the National Library’s Green Education Symposium, past-ACURIL Executive Board member, elaborated on the National Library receiving the prestigious Albertina Pérez de Rosa Information Units Alliances and Collaborative Projects in the Caribbean, by the Puerto Rico (ACURIL Annual Meeting host) ACURIL Chapter, for their innovative “National Library of Aruba goes Green Project,” supports for the annual Green Aruba Conference, and establishment of the Caribbean Energy, Environment and Sustainability Education program, which presented two Green Education Symposiums (secondary schools and higher). The II Green Education Symposium Aruba 2013 became a reality thanks to the partnership with “Green’s’Cool”, N.V. Elmar, SETAR N.V., W.E.B. N.V, Santa Rosa and Utilities Aruba N.V. The National Library of Aruba decided to make the Green Education Symposium a yearly event, and is organizing the III Green Education Symposium Aruba 2014 with a focus on “Sustainable Food Supplies” in cooperation with Santa Rosa.

A lively question and answer session lasted well-beyond the program’s ending time and including a series of comments about other libraries and librarians experiences with issues relating to sustainability, including mention of the sustainability theme for the 2015 ACRL National Meeting in Portland, Maine. Executive Secretary of ACURIL, Dr. Luisa Vigo Cepeda who attended this panel discussion made a public pronouncement in asking the National Library of Aruba to take the lead-agency role for guiding ACURIL’s new environmental section.

This panel presentation and subsequent discussion was sponsored by the International Responsibilities Task Force of ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table. Fred Stoss, at the University at Buffalo and past-Coordinator of SRRT, served as moderator. Additional information about these and other programs, contact Ronny Alders at reinold66@hotmail.com

Fred Stoss

Arts & Sciences Libraries

University at Buffalo

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