The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals and Your Community
Here are my notes on the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), along with suggestions for what every library can do to advance these goals locally.
1. The first goal is about ending poverty in all its forms everywhere. Just helping people understand that more than 836 million people around the world live in poverty is a good start. Helping to raise awareness of what homelessness means and sponsoring a solverspace event to discuss creative solutions for resolving poverty in your area is one of many steps you could take.
2. The second goal is ending hunger. Did you know that one-third of all food is actually wasted? How can you help your community eliminate waste and, at the same time, hunger in your community? Just bringing people together to think creatively about how excess, unwanted, or wasted food could be better used would be a great start.
3. The third goal is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being. Libraries have been running programs promoting physical exercise, better diets, and healthier lifestyles for years. Keep up all that good work. And when a local health issue emerges, bring people together to talk through ways to solve it.
4. The fourth goal is one that libraries are all familiar with: providing quality education. Libraries are hotspots for literacy instruction of all kinds, including storytimes for children and book clubs for adults. Plus, they provide access to learning resources for the young and old alike. How might you better reach underserved groups? Bring people together to solve the problem.
5. The fifth goal is achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls in fields such as engineering or business. There are hundreds of organizations that are open to partner with libraries, such as Girls Who Code. Just sponsoring an event can help.
6. The sixth goal is ensuring access to clean water. Did you know that water scarcity affects more than 40% of the world’s population—and is still a problem in even some parts of the U.S.? Some libraries have been involved in printing out 3D parts for water wells for people in regions in which the handles to water pumps are hoarded and access is extorted. But if water quality is or becomes an issue in your district, bring people together to help solve it.
7. The seventh goal is to ensure affordable and clean energy. Libraries can advance this goal by holding discussions about electricity conservation or solar power options, as just two examples. Through the activities within makerspaces, we have harnessed a lot of great ideas, and now we need to put those solutions into play. Build a community discussion around these topics, and you’ll have turned your makerspace into a solverspace.
8. The eighth goal is centered on creating decent, quality jobs and promoting economic growth overall. Libraries are no strangers to providing employment resources to patrons and resources to support entrepreneurs. With services such as helping patrons learn the skills they need to apply for better jobs and helping them create resumes and apply for jobs online, many libraries are already active in this area. Might they also get involved in helping their community discuss ways to attract better jobs?
9. The ninth goal is about industry, innovation, and infrastructure-building. This goal covers topics such as developing reliable transportation, repurposing materials, and having internet connectivity worldwide. Even in the U.S., libraries are the one place some people can go to access the internet because libraries have deployed the technology. What can you do to help involve your community in solving its infrastructure issues?
10. The 10th goal is about reducing inequality within and among countries. This may seem like a large task for a local library to take on, until one recalls that many libraries already have the mission of leveling the knowledge playing field by providing information access to all. How about partnering with an organization such as SolveOS to promote global citizenship?
11. The 11th goal is focused around sustainable cities and communities. This not only relates to how we are using natural resources or eliminating waste, but how cities can become smart and connected, offering better safety in a sustainable way. Some libraries are showing by example how smart city technology can work by installing it in their facilities. Why not invite the public in to discuss how it could be rolled out?
12. The twelfth goal is about responsible consumption and production. Sponsoring conversations around how we can do better at recycling and reducing emissions are good starting points. Some school libraries have used their makerspaces to build recycling bins and place them around their communities. Thus, the makerspaces become solverspaces.
13-15. The 13th, 14th, and 15th goals are about climate action, life below water, and life on land, respectively. While each is a unique goal in its own right, these three collectively are about ensuring that the Earth we live on remains viable. These are some of the most urgent goals, as the impact of our inaction is already being felt through deforestation, water contamination by plastics, and climate change. Libraries and librarians, similar to every other institution and human being, have a responsibility to do something about this, but librarians are in a unique position to bring in people to discuss it and come up with creative solutions.
16. The 16th goal—and one that I see many libraries embracing—is promoting peace and justice. This is often done by raising awareness, sharing facts with others, and taking a strong stance on including everyone. This goal requires people to interact with local leaders, and it’s a great opportunity for young people to become more involved in their community. One of my favorite school memories was a field trip to the village hall, where we were able to participate in a meeting and help drive decisions that impacted the community.
17. The 17th goal is to raise awareness about the sustainability goals themselves and how everyone can play a part in accomplishing them by 2030. I’ve done my little part just by publishing this article. Feel free to pass it on. But there’s always more that we can do, and that’s why I’m advancing the idea that library makerspaces are ripe for evolution into solverspaces for taking all of these goals head on.
Libraries can be the thought-leadership centers and solution hubs for their communities. Together as a team, we can deliver this message and raise awareness of these goals through our own actions—solving by doing.