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Reinventing libraries: considering a new and green identity

TU-Delft-Architecture-Library-Desk-4

Architecture Library, Delft, The Netherlands
Image by Ellen Forsyth

Due to the digital challenge the information sector is undergoing, many words have been spent on the future of libraries. However, what hasn’t been pointed out enough and discussed about libraries engagement in new media and technologies is the new horizon they may be heading to. It is about driving the change to a smarter and more sustainable use of the knowledge that they have proudly produced and safeguarded until now.

Due to the amount of papers they store and produce, libraries aren’t the most eco-friendly services on the planet. Actually, I should say weren’t. Lately, in fact, the concept of a Green Library is spreading all around the world. It isn’t only a matter of sustainable buildings, but it is also a library management issue. In order to survive the technologic challenge, many libraries around the globe are re-discussing their identity in order to live up to the challenge of our times and to clients’ high expectations. By reducing paper waste energy inefficiency and promoting recycling of used material, green libraries are developing a new idea of the Library as a sustainable service. By providing sustainable services and values within their walls, Green Libraries claim to keep faith with the task they were born for: the betterment of humankind.

The National Geographic has estimated that it takes 14 e-books to produce as much carbon as is the one needed to produce a paper book. Although there still are debates about the eco-convenience of e-readers vs. old-school books, digitalization is a necessary process. That is the reason why digital collections are a main point of Green Libraries’ agenda. Also since 2009, the European Parliament’s Library has started buying and replacing paper books and serials with their electronic versions. So far, the library offers 260 serials in digital format and buys about 300 new e-books every year. In addition, it is also actively involved in the EMAS (Eco-Management Audit Scheme) a management tool to evaluate, report and improve organizations and companies’ environmental performance.

Libraries’ future depends on their will to find a new outfit, suitable to surf the new technological wave rather than trying to swim upstream. Since people might soon have access to all information they need from home, in the near future they probably won’t need to go to libraries anymore. However, they might continue keep to be willing to attend libraries because they are nice places for studying, because they feel empathy for a particular cause the library supports or simply because, there, people are welcoming and keen to help.

Reinventing identities is never an easy task, nor is giving up the pleasure of holding a thick book in our hands. Although, in this scenario, there’s little space left for romantic yellowish book pages, hopefully, if what you look for is the magic of a story, then do not worry because literature keeps its power, even in e-books.

Data and infographics about e-books vs. paper books here 

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