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Hi there! We’re the Green Garage Urban Sustainability Library, and this is our introduction: to folks in Detroit, to people who want to live more sustainably, to librarians the world over who are interested in new kinds of librarianship, and to anyone else who might be interested in what we’re up to.
So what’s the Green Garage? (You mean you haven’t heard?!) In a nutshell, it’s a sustainable business incubator in Midtown Detroit. Housed in a historically & sustainably renovated 1920 Model T showroom, we’re providing space, resources, and the knowledge and wisdom of the local community to new, sustainable small businesses. What’s a sustainable business? Think people dedicated to keeping restaurant fat, oil, and grease out of the great lakes, turning it into biofuel instead; think a local pedal cab company, committed to green transportation in the region and looking to develop a new business model; think designers re-claiming wood from buildings slated for demolition to make unique pieces of furniture enlivened by the buildings’ history. (Those are three businesses being grown right now in the business greenhouse, a community-centered model of small business development.) The Green Garage is a home for innovative entrepreneurs committed to a triple bottom line, lifting up their businesses (and metro-Detroit) economically, environmentally, and socially.
The Urban Sustainability Library is an essential part of the Green Garage. We’re a team of people (some professional librarians, some not) who are committed to helping people in Midtown Detroit (and beyond) make more sustainable choices. We consider ourselves a new kind of public library, eager to help individual community members and local organizations improve their sustainability literacy. Our mission is to help people and organizations make more sustainable choices. In support of that mission, we believe that:
- Everyone has a right to the information needed to make these more sustainable choices.
- Making more sustainable choices is fundamentally a learning process.
- Choosing more sustainable ways of living is more likely to be successful when the person is connected to an encouraging community.
- Each person’s journey into a deeper understanding of sustainability is unique and they know best what’s sustainable for them.
- We are one of many resources people have available to them to help them make more sustainable choices.
In addition to improving the sustainability literacy of the local community, we’re also dedicated to adding value to the businesses being grown in the greenhouse. In that way, we function a bit like a corporate or special library, embedding ourselves with the developing businesses to help them succeed.
We’re probably not the kind of library you’re used to. We believe that traditional models of librarianship are largely insufficient for the kind of work we do, and that we have an obligation to think differently. We’ve been guided in our thinking by the information requests the Green Garage has already received from the community, as well as the recent work of R. David Lankes, whose Atlas of New Librarianship articulates a new way forward for a profession in transition. Lankes’ new mission for librarians is this: to improve society by facilitating knowledge creation in their communities. Sounds simple enough, but in that brief mission is a fundamental re-orientation, away from physical collections as our primary concern and toward the community itself as a valuable, complex collection with ample knowledge to share. It’s also a shift away from librarians as passive agents, staying in the library and waiting for the community to come in and ask for help, and toward being active, getting out of the physical library, meeting the community where it is, and generating valuable information ourselves. We see ourselves as information activists rather than archivists, believing that librarians today and into the future have a vital role in improving society by connecting and empowering their communities.
We intend to use this blog as a place where we can articulate what we’re about in more detail, profile projects we’re working on, and trace our development as a growing, changing organism. We have a lot of work to do, and a lot to learn — we hope you’ll join us along the way!
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