Through tracing the history of a book and a laptop, we learned that there is so much more that goes into the production of our belongings than we normally have the chance to learn about. When we think about purchasing products, we very rarely think about how natural resources are exploited, how people and communities are subject to unhealthy and dangerous conditions, and the sheer amount of labor involved for us to check out a library book or use a laptop.
While the goal of this project was not to create a concrete plan for implementing a circular economy at Barnard, our research has shown us that there are potential action items that the school can take in the near future in order to create a more sustainable environment. Related specifically to the objects that we investigated, we would encourage Barnard to:
- Create an official “lending library” supported by BCIT in order to make old college-used laptops available to community members for personal/school use
- Similar to the FLIP library, we hope such an initiative would prioritize and take into account the needs of low-income students.
- Expand the inventory of laptops (and other devices) for students, faculty, and staff at home to use as we work and learn from home
- Allow faculty and staff to repair the laptops and devices through BCIT outside of the current 4-year restriction
- Continue recycling laptops when they are no longer able to be used or repaired
- Encourage students to share physical copies of books
- Increase the number of low cost courses available to students
- As seen when we suddenly shifted online in Spring 2020, many professors who had been adamant about their inability to share their resources and ensure all students were able to access course materials suddenly were able to redistribute readings, book chapters, and other resources to the whole class. This way, students would not need to purchase expensive books that they will only read (or skim) once, which in turn would reduce the overall environmental impact of being a student at Barnard.
- The Personal Librarians are currently working with faculty to make low cost courses, as part of a series of efforts led by Miriam Neptune. Faculty and students should reach out to their Personal Librarian if they would like to lower or eliminate the costs of their course for students.
- Motivate community members to donate books to the FLIP library or community organizations who accept donations
- Inform students of off-campus or online resources to access course materials that Barnard does not have, such as New York Public Library (NYPL), Borrow Direct, and the Interlibrary Loan system.
Throughout our month of work, we also engaged with many readings about issues of race, gender, class, and other identities and frameworks are crucial to understanding Digital Humanities, technology, and the world we live in today. We paid special attention to the work of scholars and writers that are often underrepresented in academia, and we see that work as foundational for the research and development of this project. We look forward to seeing how college campuses will apply more sustainable practices in the future.