Library Exterior with Spring Tulips

Libraries Work Toward Sustainable Partnerships

When I was asked to create a post for the libraries’ new blog in the spring, the thought of Earth Day came to mind, and I felt that discussing the relationships the library is creating with sustainable entities would be most appropriate.

Earth Day, which falls on April 22nd, was first observed in 1970 and organized by Denis Hayes. Hayes, who was a Harvard Graduate student at the time, wanted to educate others about environmental conservation. He was hired by Senator Gaylord Nelson, who wanted to use the event to help “bring America back together”. This event was held during the midst of the Vietnam war. Nelson felt our young people needed something more productive to focus their efforts on, and this grassroots cause was just what they needed. It is estimated that 20 million people assembled across the United States at this inaugural event.

The first global Earth Day was organized by Hayes in 1990, with 200 million people in 140 countries in observance. I remember attending an event at a park by the river in Big Rapids on that day, when I was an undergrad.

Image of Earth Day Event at Park

If you have read recent posts on this blog, you would have likely read the post from Timothy Peters, Library Spaces are Changing – Part One. Tim discussed the changing landscape of library spaces and how the move from print materials to electronic reduces the footprint of physical materials by shifting them from brick and mortar buildings to the cloud. Reducing the physical footprint allows the libraries to expand study spaces for library users. This movement to the cloud has brought about interesting challenges for library staff.

How do we dispose of this material in a responsible way?

How can we provide our materials to others in an efficient manner?

The libraries have a responsibility to use available resources to assure that materials removed from the library collections are discarded appropriately and responsibly. Several years ago, we were put in touch with a sales representative from a company called Better World Books (BWB). BWB was started by two Notre Dame University graduates in 2003. They were looking for a niche market, and found that, in gathering and selling used books. They also donate books to under-served communities; as the banner at the top of their website indicates, “Every time you purchase a book on, we donate a book to someone in need.” The partnership between CMU Libraries and BWB has allowed the libraries to make our used books available to other libraries or people. The funds from the sale of these books goes to the libraries they came from, or they are donated to non-profit organizations. It is a win-win!

More recently, the CMU Libraries has partnered with CMU Recycling. The CMU Recycling office works with the Isabella County Recycling Center and other companies across the state/nation to responsibly dispose of a variety of library materials that BWB does not accept.

• Earth Day. (2019). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from
• Christofferson, B. (2004). The man from clear lake: Earth day founder Senator Gaylord Nelson. Retrieved from
• [Photograph from Earth Day 1990]. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2019, from,earthday

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