In addition to the regular 'green' initiatives found elsewhere on campus – such as paper and beverage container recycling and motion-sensor lighting – the University Library has recently made some other moves towards environmental sustainability.
Several of these changes come in the form of acquiring e-resources rather than print items. The library is purchasing more e-books to add to its collection; we have also made a decision to move towards e-reference materials, wherever possible. And increasingly, more of our journals are found online rather than in print. All of these digital documents help the environment by not consuming paper and ink, and by using less energy in the production and transportation process. It also helps save library space, as our shelves are getting quite full. Theoretically, we could also be saving commuting costs for those people accessing these resources on their home computers rather than driving to the library to get the physical items.
While the argument might be made that energy is wasted in the production and use of the computers used to access e-resources, chances are that a researcher already owns and is using his or her computer, so the only additional cost to the environment from reading an e-book or journal versus a printed version is the incremental energy used while actually viewing the material.
While there will always be a demand – and a desire – for the printed page, it's nice to know we can soften our environmental footprint somewhat by making electronic alternatives available where appropriate.
As well, the library has also been delivering most of the articles requested via inter-library loan electronically. Links to PDFs are now emailed to the requester rather than a physical copy of the article faxed from the lending library, as they were previously. While recipients may still print the article, chances are not all of them do. (Please note that e-mailed articles are still copyright protected and are provided for requestors' personal research or study only.)
And what happens to the discarded material – those books and journals weeded from our collection due to age, lack of use, or suitability?
Previously, this material was not able to be recycled because of the integration of non-recyclable materials (such as book covers, anti-theft strips, etc). Now, the library has partnered with an organization called Better World Books, which accepts shipments of books (free of charge) and then re-sells them to other organizations.
Not only are we diverting our discards from the landfill, but we are also supporting literacy efforts through our affiliation with this program. Those books that are not sold through this process are disassembled, and the parts that can be are recycled.
These are just some of the ways that the University Library is attempting to align itself with the University's Strategic Plan by enhancing the environmental sustainability of the University.