“Making Your Library Sustainable for Your Community and Our Future” Presentation, #ALAvirtual20

Last week during the ALA Annual 2020 virtual conferences I was part of the ALA New Members Round Table (NMRT) President’s Program on sustainability and libraries.

The New Member Round Table President’s Program brings together librarians with a variety of perspectives on sustainability and how it is integrated into library work. Topics of our panel discussion will include initiatives and programming in academic and public libraries, the health impact of the climate crisis, and community engagement.

I chose to focus on the ties between sustainability, improved library staff health and wellness, and improved patrons services and outreach.

Chart showing "Sustainable buildings" equal "improved staff health and wellness" equals "improved productivity and services"

You can access a PDF of my slides here. I’ve pulled out a few key points below that seemed to resonate on Twitter.

What can you do right now? 

Work with what you have but continue to aim for the best.

As you look at moving library staff back into the library during the COVID pandemic, either now or in 6 months, look at the space you have allocated as staff space. Unless there is a cure or vaccine, staff need to be at least six feet apart. Open floor plans or cubicles are not safe. Even if we were not in a pandemic, these workspaces have negative impacts on staff health and wellness.

Now is the time to reexamine your workspaces and policies. Each of these deserves a much deeper delve, but here are some key points.

Physical Space

  • Windows with access to natural light
  • Standing desks
  • Private space
  • Plants in personal and shared space
  • Good air quality 
  • Encourage lunches and breaks away from a desks


  • Allow telecommuting
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Allowing employees to get involved in decision- making.
  • Employees should be encouraged to take breaks, vacation days, and sick leave.

I will paraphrase what I said during the presentation about telecommuting. When I recommend permitting telecommuting, I often hear the question or concern – How will I know my employee is working? My response is – The same way you know they are working when they are in the office, the work gets done. You should not need to see an employee physically to know they are working. Do not resort to micromanaging; this will not improve your relationship with staff, improve morale, or improve productivity. If you have an issue with a staff member’s productivity while they are telecommuting, that is a performance issue, not a remote working issue. Address it as such.

If you would like more articles, videos, and links related to improving staff health and wellness, I have created a new Facebook page in anticipation of the forthcoming book. Give it a “like.” Take care.

2 replies »

  1. “How will I know my employee is working? My response is – The same way you know they are working when they are in the office, the work gets done.” I’ve been saying this for about 20 years! You would think that with all the work being done online during quarantine, management would finally understand this.