Library Has Long History of Being Green
by Reba Leiding
JMU Libraries’ green roots go back to the 1970s. Recycling efforts in Carrier Library began as a grassroots effort long before the university had an organized recycling program. The original ideas on how the library could recycle, reduce, reuse, and promote use of recycled materials started as staff initiatives, and continued with support of library administration.
Early Recyclers: The library’s earliest recycling effort in the 1970s involved newspaper, magazines, and journals that were printed on recyclable paper. At that time, many print subscriptions were replaced with archival microform copies. When the replacement microform arrived, staff members hauled the old issues of journals, newspapers, and other recycled items to a local recycling center in their own vehicles. This continued until around 1991, when the JMU recycling program began collecting materials on campus. This early recycling initiative was significant, since most of the library’s periodical subscriptions were in print format, but the advent of online subscriptions has reduced the amount of recycling. In 2008, nearly 90 percent of the library’s periodical subscriptions are in electronic format.
Early on, all library staff recycled their own office paper, bottles, cans, cardboard, phone books, and junk mail, a practice that continues to today. The library’s housekeeping staff also participates in the program.
Recycled c atalog cards are used as scratch paper at Carrier Public Services Desk; Jerry Gill, head of reference, left, and Ann Spector, student worker.
Around 1993, the library converted from a card catalog to the online catalog. At the time the card catalog was closed, it contained over a million cards on fine rag paper. Some cards were donated to the Art Department for use in paper-making classes, while a majority were boxed for recycling or reuse. The remnants of those cards are still being used today as note cards at the Carrier Public Services Desk.
Carrier Library has long encouraged procurement of recycled paper whenever possible. The Library Skills Workbook, the print precursor to Go for the Gold, the Libraries’ online tutorial on basic information literacy skills for introductory General Education classes, was printed on recycled paper at the library’s request. These 80-page workbooks were purchased and completed by all first-year students.
The library was a model to other JMU departments and offices as they launched their own recycling efforts. Erin Goewey, JMU Recycling Coordinator during the early 1990s, often used Carrier Library as an example when training faculty and staff, and encouraged them to visit Carrier Library to see its recycling program firsthand. Carrier Library’s formal training program for student assistants has long included recycling information. Student workers are active participants; they are trained in gathering and sorting paper, picking up paper in public areas, and saving recyclable materials. Users were encouraged to recycle, too: public printers had recycle bins nearby, and librarians and staff posted signs in public areas encouraging users to reuse or to recycle handouts and library guides.
The library’s early recycling effort evolved with no special equipment, furniture, or funding. As library staff learned about recycling, many began recycling at home, and the experience of conserving resources spread to family and friends. When JMU’s recycling program began, that office became a supporting partner in hauling materials, providing bins for sorting, and expertise on resource recovery at JMU.
JMU Libraries is proud of its green history. We look forward to developing new ways of conserving resources as technology and needs change.
Historical information in this article was gathered from a 1993 document entitled “Carrier Library’s Recycling Program,” written by Lynn Cameron.