Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sustainable library?

Life has been so crazy busy this past week that I haven't even had time to think about this blog, let alone check it! Even work has been nuts, and I'm loving it. It's so nice to have things to do, filling my day. Yesterday I thought, "Why am I so hungry? It's only...oh, 12:30. Ah."
One of the things we did a couple of weeks ago was to have a library cleaning day. We dusted, we shifted books to make more room, cleaned off our desks, etc. But we also went through all of the notebooks that have been on shelves in the office since long before I started working here, trying to see what we could recycle. There were reams of data from 1997, which we don't need. Old manuals from 2003 for programs that we either don't have anymore or which have changed so much that the manuals were rather quaint. Plus, they're online now. No need for a paper copy. I was amazed to realize just how efficient the internet has made running an office. Think of all the paper that's been saved by having manuals online rather than in paper. We even have our procedures written and saved on a network rather than paper copies. It's incredible.
Not only are we printing less, we're receiving less paper. The library used to provide (and struggle to provide) 5,000 journals in their paper form. With online subscriptions, we now have over 50,000 journals, less than a quarter of which are still received in paper form. (And those that are are either free and not online, or they're owned by the devil's publishing house, Elsevier, and online subscriptions are exorbitantly costly.) Every year our list of journals shrinks a bit more. I know, I'm the one who checks them in. :)
Anyway, with all this cleaning up my coworker and I made so many trips out to the recycling bin. We saved what could be used for scratch paper (either for double-sided printing or to cut up for students to use) and the rest was hauled out back to get recycled. I'm glad all that old paper will see new life. (And the reason to recycle paper isn't to save trees, it's to save water! Trees can be sustainably grown for paper and it ends up being fairly carbon neutral. But it's way, way more water intensive.)
Our librarian has also been doing what's called weeding--removing old books from the collection that are out of date (easy to do with science books) or just unnecessary any more. These books go through quite the cycle before getting tossed in the dumpster. Unless it's in really, really bad shape or it's really, really old we: first decide if it could go on the booksale shelf. Would anyone want it? If not, we check the ISBN on a website called Better World Books. This group essentially buys books (they pay the shipping as long as it is one they want), sells them and then takes a percentage of that money. It keeps these books in circulation so people and libraries don't have to buy new ones, and we make a little bit of money. (Not much--about $3000 between us and the main library in a little over a year, which is a drop in the bucket in terms of the budget. But it helps.) If BWB won't take it, we then have to decide if it's something that the Fairbanks Literacy Council would take. IF the book isn't suitable for any of these places, then it gets recycled.
The final, but enormous, chunk of recycling that we're doing right now is to remove our old paper journals that we have online access to. The library was able to purchase three large backfiles packages (old issues of a lot of journals) so I get to spend my days recycling the paper. I won't go into all of the backups that need to be in place to assure library access before we do the paper removal, but even if the system goes down or we suddenly lose access to a particular site, we'll still get the journals. Don't worry. Anyway, yesterday I spent about 2 1/2 hours doing this (it's tough physical labor, pulling them off the shelves onto a cart, pushing the cart out to the back of the building, tossing them into the recycle bin, start over) and half filled up the bin. This clears space for journals that we have waiting to be moved here (again, I won't go into details, but we're having to store some things off-site and it costs the library lots of money, so clearing this space will help the library save lots of money) and for more books in the future. It feels good to be doing something useful and helpful. Although, I was so tired last night from work that I played horribly at softball. Oh well. It's good for me to be that tired, right?

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