Categories: Green

Libraries: No Longer Just for Books, and They’re Becoming More Green

Times are changing fast, and today’s libraries are evolving to keep up with today’s thoroughly modern world. Once upon a time, libraries were filled with dusty tomes of knowledge, modern mysteries, and portals to new worlds past and present. Modern technology allows people the opportunity to carry thousands of books around in their pockets via smartphone apps. But that hasn’t quite made libraries obsolete. In fact, today’s libraries have more to offer than mere knowledge. Believe it or not, much of what today’s libraries offer makes them some of the greenest places in large and small cities throughout the country.

Digital Lending

Many libraries have made the move to digital eBooks and audiobooks for their patrons. In fact, most of them have online services that allow members to access lending libraries while on the go, checking out digital copies and having them at their fingertips in a matter of seconds – ready to read or listen to. Even smaller libraries are beginning to offer this service, which requires no physical copies of the book saving countless trees while still offering the knowledge to an even wider audience than ever before. Audiobooks in MP3 formats save precious shelf space in libraries, too, and allow patrons to have the entertainment and convenience of audiobooks without the need to keep up with cassettes or CDs, which are both vulnerable to damage and loss.

How does digital lending work? In most cases, the library simply issues patrons a temporary license to the materials they’ve borrowed, and when the lending period expires, patrons no longer have access to the digital materials until they’ve checked them out again. These do work much like actual books in that libraries only have a certain number of digital copies to lend out at a given time. This means that new releases from popular authors will continue to be a little more difficult to get your hands on. Many libraries even have waiting lists for digital copies you can opt into while browsing. Then you’ll be notified, typically by email, when the book becomes available so that you can either choose to check it out, wait for another time, or remove yourself from the waitlist altogether.

Some libraries have also made the move to incorporate video and audio entertainment into their digital lending libraries, including television series seasons, miniseries, movies, and music through services like Hoopla and Freegal. The digital nature of all these movies, books, music albums, television shows, comic books, etc. means that they will not return to landfills. The fact that most patrons can download these digital copies from home means that no emissions are made getting to the library. Everyone wins – including the libraries, the patrons, and the planet.

Portable Reading Devices

Portable reading is a big deal these days. It’s a great way to engage children and teens in the reading process. With that in mind, many libraries throughout the U.S. now offer portable reading devices for lending as well. This includes devices like Playaway devices, and some libraries offer eReaders like standard Kindles, Nooks, and Sony Readers to lend.

Book Clubs to Go

While this does involve books, it’s even bigger than that. Ann Arbor District Library offers this service that involves the lending of ten copies of the featured book along with a DVD movie (if one has been made) and a source kit that contains a wide range of information related to the book including things like:

  • Summary information
  • Reviews of the book
  • Author biography
  • Discussion suggestions
  • Tips for the book group

The lending period for Book Clubs to Go is six weeks, though they may be extended if no one else has a request for the particular book club to go package.

Why is this a greener choice? While there are ten copies of the books, it’s better than having book clubs purchase the books for one time use and then tossed aside never to be read again. Each book gets multiple uses making that a green choice to be proud of.

Physical Copies of Music, Movies, and Television Series

In addition to digital copies of music, movies, and popular TV series, many libraries offer physical copies of these as well. Most music comes in the form of CDs and television series, and movies in the form of DVDs.

Mobile Hotspots

Some libraries are even lending Internet access, according to The Wall Street Journal. This comes in the form of mobile hotspots that libraries in New York City now offer with the assistance of a one million dollar donation from Google. This really helps the city and the library itself go green as it allows people who would not otherwise be able to take advantage of digital lending because they do not have Internet access at home to do so.


No, you don’t have to return these when you’re done with them, either. You get to keep them, and eat the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor instead. Sounds crazy, right? It’s true though. The Pima County Public Library offers a seed library, which consists of open-pollinated and heirloom seeds patrons can use to grow in their own homes and gardens. It’s a great learning opportunity for library patrons interested in learning more about the local climate, the life cycle of plants, and even how to make a garden grow. It doesn’t get greener than that!

Resources for Teens

Different libraries across the country are also becoming hot spots (can you believe it?) for teens to hang out after school and during the summer by offering programs geared to them. They feature things like gaming tournaments (for board and card games), teen movie afternoons, teen book clubs, and even technology-related educational programs designed to attract teens.

Libraries have changed over time, and they keep getting better. The great thing about living a green lifestyle is that libraries support greener living at every turn. These are only a few examples of how libraries are keeping up with the demands of a technology-driven society that is also interested in reducing its overall carbon footprint.

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    Amber Merton

    Amber Merton is an accomplished writer on the topics of green living and sleep. Her work has been covered in numerous online publications. Amber has been a regular author on the PlushBeds blog for the past 7 years.

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