Information Update - Spring 2011

The Library Forms Green Team to Promote Sustainability

During the fall 2010 semester, the Weinberg Memorial Library formed a task force called the "Library Green Team." The Green Team is comprised of librarians, staff and students from various majors who are interested in sustainability and raising awareness to environmental issues. The Green Team grew out of the University's "Sustainability Task Force," which was formed to educate students and the community on the importance of living an environmentally conscious lifestyle. Part of The University of Scranton's mission is to educate young men and women about the ethical issue of social justice and inequality. This issue encompasses sustainability: by living a sustainable lifestyle today we are consciously choosing to combat an inequality future generations would face if we chose not to conserve our resources.
Unlike other departments on campus, the library is unique in that it is capable of addressing all of the three areas of concern laid out by the Sustainability Task Force. The three areas are academics, physical plant and community education. As an academic department, the librarians could help to integrate sustainability into lectures and use other creative mediums to raise awareness and promote sustainable living. As a building and vibrant hub on campus, the library strives to physically reduce its consumption of resources and encourages its users to conserve and refrain from unnecessarily using disposable items and to recycle those items that have been used. And, because the Weinberg Memorial Library serves members of the public, we can also educate and promote sustainable practices to the local community. 
Keeping in mind the three areas of concern, the Green Team opened its inaugural meeting with a brainstorming session dedicated to addressing any major problems within the library, creating a mission statement, and creating a list of projects to accomplish. Undoubtedly, the main area of concern in the library was the recycling habits of students. At that time the library had poorly labeled recycling bins that lead to confusion as to which bin someone should use. Unfortunately, because of this, trash, paper and bottles were frequently mixed together, rendering the contents unrecyclable. In order to combat this, the library purchased 15 sets of green, blue and brown receptacles with specially designed slots for paper, plastic and trash, respectively. In addition, by using the library's digital signage and by placing informational flyers above recycling bins, the Green Team is educating library users on where specific items should be deposited. After only one short semester there has been an unquestionable improvement in recycling within the building. The Green Team also formed a mission statement, created a website, and participated in a team bonding experience. The team bonding experience took the form of a group walk on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail. Ashlyn Gomez, director of community engagement for the Lackawanna Heritage Valley, led the tour that garnered an article in the Nov. 14, 2010, issue of The Scranton Times-Tribune. 
In order to practice what we preach, the library went through a major renovation of lighting within the building. All fixtures were replaced with energy efficient bulbs, and all offices and group study rooms are now equipped with motion sensors that automatically turn the lights off when no one is in the room. In addition, the library is dedicated to recycling materials that are no longer a part of the collection in the most sustainable way possible. Items recycled by the library include old books that have been replaced by newer editions, bound journals that are now accessed electronically, and VHS tapes that have been replaced by DVDs and other formats. 
Some noteworthy accomplishments that will be unveiled in the spring semester are "Public Service Announcements," which were created by Professor Mary Beth Holmes' TV Production classes. Thirty-five students created 14 PSAs that use student actors to educate their peers on sustainable issues in the library. Also in the spring, the library will have a water purifier installed in the new 24-hour space. The water purifier will work in conjunction with a Green Team campaign to reduce the purchasing of disposable water bottles. The library will sell reasonably priced "BPA-free" bottles with a catchy sustainability slogan created by a group of seniors who collaborated with the Green Team to complete their senior seminar for the Communication department. So, now students can fill up on purified water in the library for free rather than purchasing disposable bottles that will ultimately be thrown away. 
In order to further promote sustainability to the University community and the local community, the library will be hosting an Environmental Art Show. The art show will be held in conjunction with Earth Week and will be celebrated at the University from April 15 - 22. The Environmental Art Show will be comprised of student artwork; we hope to have a variety of mediums, including pottery, painting, photography, fashion, video art and sculpting. All students are welcome to submit their environmentally themed art to the Environmental Art Show. Submissions must be brought to the library by April 11, 2011. 
In conclusion, the Green Team has either completed or is well on the way to completing the lofty goals it had set out in its inaugural meeting. With the continued dedication of the team and the University's environmentally conscious students who understand the issues of social justice and sustainability, the Green Team is likely to see many more successes in the near future.

George Aulisio