Book Review: Greening Libraries

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Greening Libraries, by Antonelli, M. and McCullough, M. Library Juice Press, 2012, 270 pages inclusive of author information and index. Softcover, $32, ISBN 978-1-936117-08-6.

The use of the verb “greening” in the title made me think that this book would be a how-to guide for making a library more eco-friendly. It is not. This book is a collection of essays on the subject of green libraries. Mostly, the essays consist of case studies of how specific libraries became more environmentally friendly or adopted environmental policies. Therefore, this book is something a librarian might purchase if they were looking to brainstorm possible ideas for greening rather than a book a librarian would purchase to learn how to implement a green idea.

This book is not geared specifically toward law libraries, but rather libraries of any type. Most of the authors either come from university settings or public library settings. Because of its essay structure rather than how-to orientation, this book may be better suited to an academic collection than a firm or government library collection. However, a few of the essays are good enough to be recommended for a librarian’s personal collection.

The book is divided into three parts, one on green buildings, one on green committees, services and programs, and one on green resources. In my opinion, the most useful essay from the first section is “Greening Libraries in Historic Buildings” by Aldritch, because most law librarian readers will be part of an existing building rather than facing an upcoming construction project and most of the other essays describe how to plan buildings to be green at the design stage. From section two, the most useful essay is the one that describes how East Carolina University created a green committee and the committee successes: “Tending the Garden: Growing Your Own Green Library Committee” by Andresen, Gustavson, Hisle and Reynolds. It is the third section which contains my overall favorite essay of the book. “Beyond Swag: Reflections on Libraries, Pencils, and the Limits of Green Consumerism” by Hudson is an essay that examines our practices of promoting libraries with free products such as pencils and vendor’s free products at conferences. At issue is whether giving out free “green” products can truly be considered green given that green giveaway items are less environmental destructive rather than non-environmentally destructive and that giveaways in general play into the idea that we are consumers who can easily be swayed by collecting an endless number of duplicative items.

The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a practical guide, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for food for environmental thought, this might be a good place.

Emily Marcum is Law Librarian for the law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White, L.L.C. in Birmingham, Alabama.

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