Library Futures

One of my responsibilities as Chair of the Music Library Advocacy Committee is to serve as MLA’s representative to the Library Futures Institute. This new non-profit, founded in January 2021, is a coalition of libraries and knowledge organizations, such as Creative Commons and the Internet Archive, that are dedicated to equitable access to information, especially in the digital environment.

On November 12 I participated in a “coalition call” organized around a presentation by Sarah Hutton (UMass Amherst) and Max Mahmoud Wardeh (Open Knowledge Connective). Sarah and Max talked about ways to lessen the environmental impact of digital technology, especially with regard to digital bandwidth consumption. They shared links to the Carbon Literacy Project, which raises awareness about the carbon impact of everyday activities, and LessImpact.org, which offers tools and resources to help reduce the environmental impact of digital technology. One strategy that they focused on was getting people to turn off their cameras during online meetings, which can reduce the meeting’s carbon footprint by up to 96%. However, as a few participants pointed out, there is a potential mental and emotional cost to facing a wall of blank screens.

An aspect of their presentation that made an impression on me as a music librarian is the environmental impact of streaming media. While they advocated for holding vendors accountable and pushing them to offer localized hosting of digital content, I also wonder whether we could make an environmental case for choosing physical audio and video resources over streaming content.