November 24, 2020

Librarians, Archivists, Scholars, Educators, Artists, and Activists Tackle Climate Change

A roundup of the event via a Library Juice Press announcement.

Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene: Colloquium 2017 (LAAC 2017) was held on May 13-14, 2017 at the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. About 40 librarians and archivists attended, as well as a handful of artists, educators and scholars, to explore their roles as stewards of a culture’s collective knowledge and the unique implications of the missions and activities of libraries and archives in the face of cataclysmic environmental changes. Speakers presented from HathiTrust, Future Library, The Prelinger Library, Interference Archive, The Library of Approximate Location, DearTomorrow, The Next Epoch Seed Library, Brooklyn Public Library, as well as many academic libraries and archives.

Keynote speaker Roy Scranton (author of Learning to Die in the Anthropocene and War Porn) kicked off LAAC 2017 with a note of stark pessimism around climate disruption and a call for a reckoning with a radically different future. Presentations followed as either  20-minute papers or 5-minute lightning talks and ranged from environmentally sustainable practices, climate change communication, government policy to the raising of public awareness. At times, bold envisioning countered the speculation of unraveling of systems and infrastructures — imagining an augmented role of libraries as hubs for pre- and post-disaster training, shelter, and community resilience. LAAC 2017 served as an intensive two-day opportunity for information professionals and others to explore the social and physical realities of climate disruption, peak oil, toxic waste, deforestation, food and water shortages, loss of biodiversity, mass migration, sea level rise, and extreme weather events.

A field trip to the Interference Archive in Brooklyn reinforced LAAC 2017 with its focus on cultural production and preservation vis a vis social movements, creative engagement, and the value of archival collections in accessible, open stacks in potentially threatened environments.

“I can’t underscore enough how important it was for me personally to share the weekend with librarians and archivists who “get” how foundation shaking the anthropocene is for our species. I do not get this kind of affirmation in my everyday life. Despite the grave issues we discussed I left the colloquium feeling happy to connect with my new community,” wrote one attendee.

Publisher Rory Litwin of Litwin Books, the sponsor of the colloquium, said, “This event was extremely gratifying to me, as I consider the issues we discussed to be the most important issues facing us in the information and cultural heritage professions. I hope that it will turn out to be the start of a larger effort and an active community within, outside, and across LAM organizations into the future.”

The Planning Committee was made up of Casey E. Davis Kaufman, Associate Director of the WGBH Media Library and Archives and Project Manager at the American Archive of Public Broadcasting and co-founder of ProjectARCC: Archivists Responding to Climate Change; Madeleine Charney,  Sustainability Studies Librarian at UMass Amherst and co-founder of the Sustainability Round Table of the American Library Association; and Rory Litwin, former librarian and the founder of Litwin Books, LLC (Colloquium sponsor).  Howard Besser, professor of Cinema Studies at NYU, hosted the Colloquium.

Resources

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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