Chandler Sunset library named “resilience hub” for climate change - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Sunset library named “resilience hub” for climate change

February 4th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Chandler Sunset library named “resilience hub” for climate change

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

The Chandler Sunset Library has obtained a grant to fund its conversion into a “resilience hub” for combating the impacts of climate change.

The Sunset Library Branch is one of only 25 libraries across the country picked by the American Library Association to develop new educational programs that specifically focus on climate science.

Sunset was recently designated a “climate resilience hub” by Communities Responding to Extreme Weather, a nonprofit that trains volunteers how to prepare their communities for adapting to changes in the climate.

The designation obligates Sunset, which is the only library in Arizona to be named a resilience hub, to provide educational events on how to hold out through floods, droughts, wildfires, or extreme heat.  Hubs are encouraged to additionally offer shelter and emergency supplies to residents who have nowhere else to go during a weather calamity.

Experts will be invited by Sunset’s staff to host seminars on sustainable practices and teach residents how to adopt daily habits that are more friendly to the environment.

In the coming weeks, the library plans to screen climate-themed documentaries, offer resources to survive Arizona’s extreme weather, and instruct residents how to start their own home garden.

Librarian Aubrey Kowitt, who obtained the funding to start the library’s new offerings of programs, said she hopes residents will be inspired by Sunset’s initiatives to think more consciously about their carbon footprint.

Climate change is a topic worthy of greater discussion, she added, so it’s up to the local library to help supply information on this important subject.   

“I feel like that’s one of the biggest issues that we’re all facing regardless of where you’re living,” Kowitt said. “I feel like as a library, I wanted us to be able to really provide some good learning opportunities.”

Scientists have long been warning about the threat that rising temperatures impose on fragile ecosystems and Americans appear to be developing a growing interest in policies that can protect the Earth’s climate.

Twenty-four percent of Americans believe climate change is affecting their local communities a “great deal,” according to a 2020 survey done by the Pew Research Center, and 65 percent think the government’s doing “too little” to save the environment.

But the Pew survey found climate change is still a deeply partisan issue between political parties.

Kowitt said she wants Sunset’s new programming to remain apolitical and serve as a productive outlet for residents interested in learning from experts who can objectively explain why the climate’s changing.    

“I really don’t want it to be a political issue,” the librarian said. “This is our planet. We all live on this one planet and we need to take care of it.”

Starting Feb. 3, the library will be hosting a series of virtual discussions with scientists from Arizona State University who will teach attendees how to feel better connected with nature.

The one-hour forums will delve into eco-friendly eating habits, nature journaling, water harvesting, surviving a desert climate, and overcoming the restrictions of a global pandemic.

On March 20, a representative from the Chandler Environmental Education Center will deliver an online presentation covering biodiversity, carbon emissions, and the country’s involvement in international efforts to control global warming.

The Sunset branch will open up a seed library later this spring and provide materials for residents to plant new flowers and crops that can endure their local climate.

Native Seed Search, a Tucson-based nonprofit that specializes in sustainable farming practices, will be donating its arid-adapted seedlings to the library and Sunset plans to start handing out gardening kits during the last week of January.     

Rachelle Kuzyk, manager of the Sunset Library, said her branch’s new programs will hopefully build a local network of professionals who can share ideas on how Chandler can stay ahead of the curve on climate problems.

“Working in a desert community, we understand the significance of addressing critical issues like climate change, climate resilience and sustainability,” Kuzyk said. “We are looking forward to partnering with other local organizations that share the same goal of providing quality, fact-based programs.”

The Library Association started handing out its education grants this past year after receiving a large donation from a family who felt compelled to find innovative solutions for stopping climate change.

Loida Garcia-Febo, the association’s former president, said the donation perfectly arrived at a time when ALA had recently added sustainability as one of the core values of librarianship.

“By adding sustainability to its core values, ALA is recognizing that libraries of all types can act as catalysts and inspire future generations to reach solutions that are not only sensible but essential to sustaining life on this planet,” Garcia-Febo said.

Kowitt said the “resilience hub” title sounds fancy, but it basically signifies the services that Sunset and most other libraries have been providing for years.

Residents increasingly expect their libraries to be more than just a book depository, she added, so it’s up to librarians to help fulfill the needs they see in their community.

“Libraries are doing way more programming than they were 20 years ago,” Kowitt added. “We’re almost like community centers in a way.”