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How do you say "sustainability" in Spanish?
Isabel Espinal
REFORMA President's column Winter/Spring 2014,
Monday, March 3, 2014
by: Isabel Espinal

Section: President's Column

March 2014

Isabel Espinal is a Librarian for Afro American Studies, Native American Indian Studies & Information Literacy, and Ph.D. Candidate in American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Sustainability. Sostenibilidad. This word has been on my mind a lot this past year - especially, but not limited to my experience as REFORMA President. When I ran for, and was elected REFORMA Vice President/ President-Elect, global and economic sustainability was very much on my mind. I had been involved in some local and national political organizations that were interested in making the connections between climate change, environmental justice and social justice.
The phrase climate "change" in itself may not be adequate -what we are faced with is a climate "crisis" and we need to respond to it as such

Up to a few years ago, I had never been much of an environmentalist but as I was learning about the issues in the last few years, I became concerned that some urgent changes needed to be made and that our national and world and even professional leaders were not addressing the issues. I realized that we cannot leave this up to a small group of environmental activists to tackle these problems. They are problems for all of us -todos y todas- to tackle and for every leader in every type of organization across the world to tackle - in every field, in every walk of life, at every level. I realized that if I did indeed become REFORMA President, that I would be in a position of leadership from which I could do a part, even if a very small part, in addressing the urgent problem that is climate change.
The phrase climate “change” in itself may not be adequate - what we are faced with is a climate “crisis” and we need to respond to it as such. From what I have been reading and hearing the past few years, it seems there is an urgency that is simply not being addressed to the level it warrants by leadership at many levels of our society. About a year and a half ago, for example, I came across references to a report, by the International Energy Agency that pointed to "the urgency of the climate crisis ? we have 5 years to avoid irreversible, run-away climate change that will lock us into a scenario where it will be impossible to keep global average temperature increases under 2 degrees."  All I could think of was: wow, 5 years? And that was over 2 years ago. So Now I'm thinking: 3 years? Why isn't everyone talking about this? Like in a talk by Al Gore, from 2008, in which he said clearly "A sense of urgency is missing." One climate expert, Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said in 2011: “The door is closing. I am very worried – if we don't change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever."  

Then, while serving as REFORMA Vice President and now President in the past year, sustainability has entered my REFORMA vocabulary in another way - a lot of this part year has been devoted to ensuring that REFORMA itself be sustainable. How can REFORMA sustain itself? ¿Cómo podemos sostener a REFORMA, asegurar de que REFORMA se pueda sostener ahora y en el futuro? Honestly, when I decided to run for REFORMA President, I was not prepared for THAT sustainability discussion. The discussion (and obsession) came about as the REFORMA Board of Directors started to really look at the issue of REFORMA finances, thanks to the analysis and leadership of our Treasurer, Sarah Dahlen. Sarah noticed and pointed out a disturbing pattern: that REFORMA had been spending more money that we were bringing in. Some of you know the details of this - and for some of you this may be news. But ever since we have looked at our finances, my time as a REFORMA official has never been the same. All the Reformistas who looked at the numbers realized that this level of spending versus earning was not sustainable. So we started to have some difficult but necessary discussions. And I have to tell you that as painful as it has been at times it has also really been a wonderful discussion as well. What's been really great is how Reformistas both new and longtime members, have come to the fore to NOT ONLY TALK about how REFORMA can become more sustainable, but ALSO DO THE WORK of making REFORMA sustainable.
In the meantime, in the absence of an active Fundraising Committee, the Vice president (Silvia Cisneros) and I have doing our own fundraising efforts. I have recently sent out an appeal to our lifetime members  Silvia  hosted a fundraising event at Mid Winter. I have appointed a task force that looked into the feasibility of an online store and we hope to pilot that before annual, and I have appointed a Webinar Committee that will try to raise income via webinars. Also, I have appointed a permanent Conference Coordinating Committee that has been charged to ensure that REFORMA will have conferences on a regular schedule of every 2 years so that we can have some regular income from that. (Imagine that! A REFORMA conference every 2 years.)  We have also worked at reducing our expenses and unfortunately had to cut the hours of our office manager down to only 5 hours a week. Carlos Rodriguez, Chair of our Information Technology Committee, negotiated with the vendor who handles our association management system and was able to get us us much lower price for the system - about half of what we used to pay.
Some ideas of what you could do:
  •  Join the new ALA Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT). SustainRT was created as a venue in which members exchange ideas and opportunities regarding sustainability in order to move toward a more equitable, healthy and economically viable society. The mission of the organization is to provide resources for the library community to support sustainability through curriculum development; collections; exhibits; events; advocacy, communication, library buildings and space design. SustainRT is open to all ALA members.  Go to www.ala.org/sustainrt/  for more info.
  • Join a REFORMA Committee! Help us do the work of making REFORMA sustainable. Check out the curent Committes at reforma.org/committees
  • Check out the slides from our program at ALA 2013, “Libraries Empowering Communities to Deal with Climate Crisis”. The ones at the end give practical ideas for libraries.
Activities of President and Executive Committee
The REFORMA webpage, including  press releases, and messages on REFORMANet, out member listserv are good places to keep up with what has been going on in REFORMA. There are a few things that may not have made it to those venues:

1.    Committee news. New Committee: the REFORMA National Conferences Coordinating Committee (RNCCC),will be led by two Co-Chairs (Jacqueline Ayala and Loanis Menéndez-Cuesta), who are joined by two current additional members (Kathryn Blackmer Reyes and Selina Gomez Beloz) and possibly more in the future. RNCCC is not to be confused with RNC5 (REFORMA’s 5th national conference). The purpose of the  RNCCC is to make sure that REFORMA will produce conferences in the best possibly way going into the future. In other news, there are new Committee Chairs for the following committees: Education (Lori Mestre), Legislative (Millie Gonzalez and Angélica Fortín), Librarian of the Year Award (Jean Hatfield), Membership (Susan Luévano), Public Relations (Alicia Long). We’ve started a review of REFORMA committee operations, looking for example at how long committee chairs have been in their positions and if the terms of committees should be officially lengthened. We are beginning to review goals and objectives for committees and Vice President Silvia Cisneros has a plan for strengthening this work with a thorough survey of all committees.

2.    Caucusing with Ethnic Caucuses. I and other REFORMA Board members have represented  REFORMA at meetings and online discussions of the library  ethnic caucus associations (AILA, APALA, BCALA, CALA and REFORMA). The REFORMA Executive Committee voted to support the forming and incorporation of the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC) as a non profit composed of the ethnic caucuses, that would plan the future JCLCs, as well as possibly take on other joint ventures or events. There was excitement about planning future JCLCs and also about having opportunities at events such as ALA annual and midwinter for JCLC ethnic caucus members to get together and leverage power and information.
Un Triste Pero Agradecido Adios - A Sad But Very Grateful Goodbye
I feel some sadness sharing this information with you. Our Office Manager, Sandra Ríos Balderrama, has decided she will not be renewing her contract with REFORMA once her current contract ends on June 30, 2014.
Sandra has been really wonderful to work with and has done such an outstanding job as the consistent voice and memory of REFORMA for the many years she has been the Office Manager. She is also incredibly diligent. Sandra, true to form, is giving us a lot of consideration and time to make a transition. A lot of details will need to be dealt with. The Board of Directors will be discussing this and the Executive committee will take time to consider the future of this position, in light of our circumstances and and our strategic plans.
Here's a little story: I first met Sandra before I even became a librarian! It must have been 1989 or so when I was trying to decide what to do with my college degree. I was working in an office at UC Berkeley doing office work and I heard about an event where librarians were going to talk about becoming librarian careers and Sandra was one of the speakers. I remember her talking about being a librarian on a bookmobile that served Latino communities in Northern California. I was hooked! I thought: that's something I would love to do. I would love to be like her! Well, in reality I know I could never approach the level of grace and talent that she always has and shows, but one thing I do appreciate about her is how she honors and loves and shows love for the many talents that we all bring to REFORMA and to librarianship. Sandra has always helped us to see how we each offer so much; in that way she helps me to appreciate myself and also to appreciate others at the same time. Perhaps that is what I am most grateful to her for.
Please join me in thanking her and wishing her the very best.
Isabel Espinal
REFORMA President 2013-2014
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