The study aims to determine the environmental impact of printed content in libraries and thus to find out how a digital information service can help libraries and institutions play a key role in helping the environment.
Data were collected and analysed through a combination of environment scan and document analysis, and some mathematical calculations. Comparative data for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from printed books and journals in certain countries, and some specific university libraries in Australia and New Zealand are presented. A lifecycle analysis approach is used to identify various factors that are responsible for GHG emissions for printed as well as digital information resources.
The study found that dematerialisation, i.e. the replacement of printed content with digital information services, can help libraries and institutions to reduce their impact on the environment. However it is also noted that further research is needed to develop benchmarks and comparative data for GHG emissions from print‐based and digital information services.
The paper provides data relating to the potential savings in GHG emissions that can be achieved through dematerialisation of printed content in libraries. A series of research issues in the area are identified.
The paper opens up a new area of research on the environmental impacts of information services. For the first time raw data on GHG emissions from printed content held in university libraries are calculated.
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