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Sustainability Around the U

Researching Sustainability from Home

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Did you know that the Sustainability Office has a librarian?

Academic Librarian Amy Brunvand has been working with the Sustainability Office to help collect and preserve information about using the campus as a living laboratory for sustainable change. While campus is shut down, University of Utah students, faculty, and staff can think of campus libraries as a virtual branch library that offers access to collections, subscriptions, and services to anyone with a university network ID and password. That means you’ll be able to do college-level research from home in order to complete literature reviews, term papers, and other course assignments.

There are specific strategies that are especially useful to approach sustainability research topics. Consider: Who cares about this topic? Why do they care? The list of stakeholders often includes:

  • Federal, state, and local government agencies that set policy and write regulations;
  • Industries and businesses that lobby for favorable business conditions;
  • Citizen groups that advocate for environmental and social justice causes. 

Many of these types of organizations put reports and information online. However, researchers may still run into frustrating paywalls. If that happens to you, University of Utah campus libraries can help. For instance, if you are researching local issues, the Salt Lake Tribune has a paywall, but you can read articles online for free by using the Marriott Library subscription. Likewise, if Google Scholar—a search engine for scholarly academic papers—hits a paywall, you can log into the library website to get the article you need. Even if the university doesn’t have a subscription, librarians can ask if another library can send articles via interlibrary loan

Here are three things you can do to make research from home more efficient and effective:

  • Set up your computer for off-campus library access. 
    You’ll need to do a few things to get full access to library subscriptions, ebooks, and journal articles. 
  • Get research help from a real person.
    If you are not finding what you need, don’t waste hours searching. The Marriott Library offers research help via live chat, phone, and email. 
  • If you hit a paywall, ask the library for help.
    Campus libraries have a number of ways to help you get around paywalls and can even purchase copies of ebooks on request

Recently, Brunvand set up several research portals to help students find information about key local issues:

Librarians at the Marriott Library serve as liaisons for sustainability-focused degree programs. These librarians have also set up research portals, including the following:

As always, Brunvand is available to help answer questions about sustainability research. You can email her at Be aware that library hours and services may change in response to the COVID-19 public health situation. Check the Marriott Library’s COVID-19 webpage for updates. Computer labs are available in the Union, Gardner Commons, and Health Sciences Education Building; please check with individual labs for hours. If being at home puts you in a vulnerable spot, contact a Student Success Advocate.