Upcycling old books

Book wall Eawag-EMPA close up

Most of the resources our users want today are digital since they can be accessed from anywhere at any time: e-books, e-journals, online databases. But – of course – scientific resources have not always been available online; not too long ago, everything was still analogue. So, what do we do with the physical materials that have become obsolete? We upcycle them and give them a new life as a wall!

The number of borrowed books has consistently decreased in the last ten year: in 2022, merely 1630 print resources were borrowed whereas this number was still ten times higher a decade ago. On the other hand, about 1.065 million electronic items were requested and almost 1.4 million full text PDFs were downloaded from DORA last year. There’s no question that the scientific publishing world has gone digital. This means, of course, that libraries face the question of what to do with the materials that have become obsolete. The two most obvious options would be to just store them somewhere or even throw them away.

Book wall Eawag-EMPA

However, there are also more sustainable possibilities. In 2021, scientists at EMPA built flexible office spaces at NEST, the research and innovation platform of Empa and Ewag, using mostly recycled materials and components. The project also included two walls consisting of periodical volumes and books that Lib4RI discarded at Forum Chriesbach due to the digitalisation. As the construction of the book-walls was such a success, we put some crates of discarded books aside to build such walls in our library as well. After we rearranged the space at Lib4RI Eawag-Empa earlier this year, the perfect opportunity for this presented itself. Over the last few weeks, Seraina Hanselmann and Leila Zimmerli constructed our book-wall in the library, creating a very fitting atmosphere for our work and reading space. Many thanks to them for their great work!

Come by and check it out!