Archer Library and Archives is committed to environmental sustainability of library services and collections, as part of the University of Regina’s strategic focus on environment and climate action. Over the coming years, our Annual Report will include updates on our progress related to these strategic goals.
Calculating the environmental footprint of library collections is challenging. In addition to being the busiest student spaces on campus, the Archer Library building holds an extensive collection of over 1.4 million physical items (books, journals and more). There are environmental costs to processing and storing these materials in terms of materials, heating, cooling, electricity and building maintenance. However, there are also environmental costs to digital resources as well, such as e-waste and electricity consumption. Which is the better option for ongoing waste reduction and sustainability?
Using a formula developed by the Fondren Library at Rice University1, the Archer Library has begun calculating the impact of opting for ebooks over print books. What we know from our first year’s calculations is that the total environmental cost of ebooks in the library collection is lower than the print collection, both as a whole and on a per-use basis. We will continue to measure this annually to ensure it is continues on this positive trend.
Like its peers, Archer Library and Archives has significant information technology requirements. In addition to using the infrastructure and support provided by Information Services, there are a number of consortial partners, commercial software vendors, and scholarly publishing platforms that we use for library services and collections. We have begun documenting the environmental impact of our practices and our partners as much as we can.
As one example, our cloud-hosted library management system, which also powers our main search engine Quick Find, is hosted in a data centre that is powered by over 90% renewable resources and has a better than average power usage effectiveness (PUE) figure of 1.51 2 3. Since this system is our main enterprise tool, it is encouraging to see these numbers.
Library and archives staff play a role in reducing the amount of waste, through changing our habits when it comes to our own internal processes. One benefit of the pandemic has been a significant drop in printing and copying by Archer staff. Even after returning to campus, printing and copying is less than one third of what it was pre-pandemic. Much more is now scanned and sent electronically, which is convenient for both our staff and our patrons. We will be monitoring to ensure that we don’t lose these gains made since returning to campus.
Sanders, J. & Spiro, L. (2020). Estimate of Library Environmental Impact. https://sites.google.com/rice.edu/library-emissions-estimate/home ↩
Equinix. (2021). Equinix Sustainability Report 2020. https://www.equinix.com/resources/infopapers/2020-corporate-sustainability-report. ↩