Something Green for St. Paddy’s Day: My Library

Maybe more serious than a St. Patrick’s Day observation should be, but since the word green has taken on a whole new meaning in the past several years, it’s hard to think of the colour without the social responsibility.

Sam McBane Mulford ; Ned A. Himmel. Libraries Unlimited 2009

I, like I assume most school library managers, have little control over my building itself. As an environmentally conscious individual, however, I want to do what I can to be as green as possible within the limits of my space. Today is a good day to do a little energy audit of my library. The Three R’s are still a very good way to think about greening any space, activity or lifestyle, and what better place than a school library to ensure that the next generation is informed?

Cover of "The Three R's: Reuse, Reduce, R...

REUSE

If not reusable in the library, many waste items can be given to classrooms for art and science projects. Boxes, especially tissue boxes as well as diorama-size boxes are always saved.

Riverfest 2011 - Reverse Garbage workshop. Children used recycled materials to create works of art!

Packing material is an issue. One of my main suppliers is still using clean newsprint to stuff boxes, whereas I feel they could easily use other, greener alternatives. I do take the time to smooth, fold and store the paper and try to find uses for it when I can in the library and I offer it to the rest of the school for children’s art projects, etc. For the little shipping that I do, I reuse the plastic bubble wrap and pillows that I receive from other suppliers, trying to keep it out of the landfill or the questionable plastic recycling industry for as long as I can. Any plastic bags I get are reused at our annual book fair and also make good packing material in a pinch.

Neither our school, nor the district has been able to find an economical way to store and transport the vast amounts of outdated text books and library books that are currently landfilled each year: the storage and fuel costs out-weighing the return. I weeded hundreds of books last summer, most of which were sadly land-filled before I could stop it happening. I no longer allow that to happen. I have been stocking outdated materials and inspirational images of potential art projects and am close to getting something going in classrooms.

REDUCE

Energy Use

The heating (a necessity) and air conditioning (a ridiculous waste of energy in my climate) is controlled from a district-central site a couple of hundred kilometres from me. I hope this has worked to save energy in the district as a whole, but it can be very frustrating in my library. The reality is that I dress for the summer in the winter, since it is so warm in my library and when the air conditioning comes on in the warm months, I have to wear a sweater. There is an inefficiency in the air circulation design in the library space that no amount of cooperative niggling by the ‘control centre’ seems to be able to fix.

I have decent natural light that the new design has improved considerably, but since the fluorescent light banks range perpendicular to the windows, I cannot turn any of them off or the areas farthest from the windows are too dark for reading. I can, however ensure that lights stay off when not required in my office and the attached resource rooms.

As for electronics, the digital projector is set to shut down after a fixed number of minutes of non-use and the computers are always shut down at the end of the day.

Paper Use

Paper is still ubiquitous in libraries. Not only is the stock composed of it, the printer runs constantly. It, however is filled with mistakes from the copy room, where I have a box by the copier for paper that is still good on one side. Our staff is very good at keeping the box full: there is always an over-abundance. Care must be taken to ensure that no sensitive information is on the back of printouts that students will see, but no one has ever complained that there is unrelated printing on the back of their overdue notices or other printing. Hard copies are sometimes a necessity and I still find it easier to print some material, rather than reading on the computer, but am very selective and have made it a habit to think before I print.

RECYCLE

Paper Recycling

Paper Recycling (Photo credit: tengrrl)

Our school has a paper-recycling bin out in the parking lot beside the three(!) large dumpsters. The bin is too small and it is only for paper. There is literally no more room for another bin, although I think that much of what goes into the dumpsters could be turned over to recycling. However, a lot of it is cardboard and there is no cardboard recycling in our town. The landfill is accepting it, but I haven’t been able to confirm that it is going to a recycler and not being land-filled. Since it is very bulky, I have not been able to come up with a solution for cardboard; again, the benefits of transporting the (presumably biodegradable) cardboard are out-weighed by fuel consumption.

Returnable drink containers are collected and turned in to raise money for field trips; there is no excuse for any of these to be in the garbage bins. Although it is one of the most ubiquitous non-biodegradable waste materials, plastic is not collected in my school, but for the little I cannot reuse, I can easily take home and turn in with my household recycling.

EDUCATE

Click on images for Goodreads page with reader reviews and see Resources below for bibliographies.

RESOURCES

Edmonton Reuse Directory
Recycling Council of Alberta
It’s Not Easy Being Green – Toronto Public Library
An Annotated Bibliography of  Children’s Literature with Environmental Theme
4 Goodreads Listopia lists on ‘Green’ Children’s Books

Have I missed anything?
Do you have any other ideas for greening our libraries,
or resources to share?

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Filed under Books, Authors & Illustrators, Library Management

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