Originally posted at Hack Library School’s Hack Your Summer series, in response to the question, Are you doing any internships or volunteer work in libraries this summer? Updates by the author, Amy Wickner. Available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
In addition to summer classes and my regular library job, I just started working with a new group called ProjectARCC, composed of archivists concerned about climate change. Goals for the project include understanding and countering the impact of climate change on archival collections; examining the energy impact and ecological footprint of our work, from facilities to storage to travel; raising awareness about archival collections relevant to climate change; and documenting national, international, and local responses to and impacts of climate change. Read more about the what, why, and how here.
An initial reaction after just several weeks with ProjectARCC: It’s fascinating to consider the range of material that could enrich public understanding of climate change through archival collections. There’s the Old Weather transcription project, working directly with naval weather observations. We may also look to collections like Colorado State University’s Water Resources Archive and the papers and lab notebooks of climate scientists to understand the history of research on climate
change and the organizational and political, uh, climate in which that research emerged. The Elevate committee’s charge is to consider how best to promote and connect this kind of material.
As a former architect and landscape architect, I can’t help seeing design archives as a key part of this initiative as well. How does awareness and understanding of climate change affect how we envision the future built environment? (And, how will future disaster movies envision the devastation of that built environment?) Several members of ProjectARCC are also working directly with climate change awareness groups to provide data management help. Archival material documenting climate change may come from all kinds of sources; which makes sense if we consider how the climate change itself affects all corners of the world.
On a personal note, participating in this kind of work can be tough. It’s entirely on a volunteer basis, and everyone involved is either working or in school full-time. With so many people collaborating for the first time, it takes a lot of cat-herding to keep enthusiasm going and keep the project focused. On the other hand, things can move very quickly in the early stage of a project. I was recently away for six days and it’s taken three more to catch up on ProjectARCC emails — and I’m far from the most involved team member. Doing what we can, without wasting time feeling guilty about not doing more, seems like a sustainable approach to volunteer work. It’s amazing that opportunities like this exist to support personally and professionally meaningful causes; but being responsible enough to both contribute significantly and not let everything else fall by the wayside can be a real challenge.
– Amy Wickner