Reforma President’s Program on Climate Change

June 28, 2014

Isabel Espinal, president of Reforma: the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking, and Omar Poler, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, copresented the Reforma President’s Program, “Library Power to the People: Facing Up to the Climate Crisis with Information and Action.” The program was cosponsored by the American Indian Library Association and the newly formed ALA Sustainability Round Table.

Espinal said the urgency of the crisis is what prompted her to focus her presidential program on climate change. “The science tells us that meeting the policy goals requires urgent action,” she said, going on to quote Desmond Tutu: “Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse.”

She challenged those in attendance as to whether they “wait at the reference desk for someone to ask us about climate change, or make the first move in promoting this issue to patrons.”

Poler, who identified himself as a member of the Mole Lake tribe of the Wisconsin tribal peoples, demonstrated how important climate change is to Native Americans. He used as examples the cultivation of wild rice and the production of maple syrup in Wisconsin. Without stable temperatures, crops like wild rice (which require water at consistent temperatures) do not grow, wreaking economic havoc on Native American populations who rely on this crop for sustenance. In fact, these communities have begun to perform mitigative measures on reservation lands such as improving water quality and water temperature, as well as working on sustainable housing.

Espinal said that certain disciplines within librarianship can help promote and address the issue of climate change; political science and government documents are just two examples that she said “most people don’t think about” when looking for avenues through which to discuss climate change and its effects. Attendees joined her in coming up other suggestions, such as developing emergency preparedness plans for libraries in the event of a natural disasters such as flooding, which Poler reminded the group happened to a Wisconsin library.  

MICHELE LESURE, a freelance blogger for American Libraries, lives in a house divided, being an MLIS candidate at Florida State University, as well as working in the main branch library at the University of Florida. She tries to remain neutral because she doesn’t look good in crimson and gold or orange and blue.


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