Green…But Not Green Enough, By D.R. Bartlette

After opening in October of 2004, the Fayetteville Public Library has been a source of pride for most Fayetteville residents. The year after it opened, it won Library Journal’s Library of the Year Award for outstanding service to the community, beating out Washington, D.C., and Seattle. In 2006, it was named an American Landmark Library by TravelSmart newsletter.

The building was the first in Arkansas to be registered with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program, earning the LEED Silver certification in 2006.

But for all the exciting new programs and innovations, there was one service the old library offered that has been conspicuously absent from new library – the magazine exchange. This service consisted of a few magazine racks just outside the children’s library on the bottom floor of the old building. Residents could drop off old magazines and browse the shelves for those left behind by others.

Kena Bailey, a Fayetteville resident, is one of the many library patrons who misses the magazine exchange.

“I used it a lot for school projects,” Bailey said. “It was good for the environment because you don’t have to waste all those magazines.”

Indeed, magazines are one of the leading culprits in deforestation. According to the WoodWise web site, more than 95 percent of all magazine paper is made from virgin tree fiber and requires hundreds of dangerous chemicals in its production.

Not surprisingly, one of the most common reasons people gave for why they liked the magazine exchange is that it was better for the environment. The other reason was that it promoted a sense of community.

Renee Reed, a West Fork resident, said she was excited to find the magazine exchange when she moved here in 1998.

“The magazine exchange was a reflection of the sharing nature of Northwest Arkansas,” Reed said. “I really appreciated the kindness of others in donating what they no longer needed. I also enjoyed being able to return the favor and keep my old magazines out of the landfill.”

Starr Austin, another Fayetteville resident, had high praises for the program as well.

“By participating in the magazine exchange, I was able to reduce my subscriptions, reuse materials no longer needed by others and offer my old magazines for reuse, and then recycle them when I was finished with them,” Austin said. “This promotes a sense of a community that cares for each other and its planet.”

When the new library building was in the design phase, there were more than 30 public meetings held to get as much community involvement about it as possible, said Sarah Terry, manager for communications and marketing for the library. Yet Terry said the issue of where to locate the magazine exchange was never addressed during any of the public meetings.

“I don’t believe anyone thought it would become as popular to many members of the community as it ultimately did,” Terry said.

But it was popular.

“It’s the single thing I hear most about,” said Jake Lamkins, president of the Friends of the Fayetteville Pubic Library.

So many requests to reinstate the magazine exchange have been made that the issue was addressed in the January issue of Exclamation, the newsletter for the Fayetteville Public Library. In response to the question, “What happened to the magazine exchange?” the FPL’s management team’s response was:

The magazine exchange was a wonderful service for many community members. Unfortunately, some people would drop inappropriate items, such as old clothing or an entire set of encyclopedias, in the magazine exchange area, making it unsightly and time-consuming for library staff to maintain. Given the library’s increase in services, we are unable to maintain the magazine exchange in an appropriate manner.

This was a valid point. The magazine exchange was located in the foyer of the old library building, out of the line of sight of staff members. Lamkins, who has been a volunteer with the library since it was in the Dickson Street building, says that keeping the area clean was time-consuming.

“People were constantly leaving garbage. It was almost like a dump,” Lamkins said.

While the library has considered seeking volunteer help to maintain the magazine exchange, Terry said it would require inspection several times a day, every day to ensure the same problems were not occurring that did at the Dickson Street library.

“The library has wonderful volunteers, but it is not possible to have volunteers at the library the number of hours that would be necessary to maintain the magazine exchange appropriately,” Terry said.

When asked if locating the magazine exchange in a more controlled location might solve this problem, Terry said there is currently no space around the main library desk designated for the magazine exchange.

As of this writing, there are no other magazine exchange programs in Fayetteville. Several thrift shops accept donations of magazines, which are then re-sold. Although recycling uses more resources than reuse, magazines can be recycled through the city’s curbside recycling program.

According to the city’s Solid Waste and Recycling web site, magazines may be placed into mixed paper recycling, but should be kept separate from newspapers. If you have a large amount of magazines, the city asks that you bring the materials to the community recycling drop-off site on Happy Hollow Road.

Louise Mann, a waste minimization consultant who works as a solid waste educator for the Madison County Solid Waste and Recycling Center near Huntsville, said the center offers a magazine exchange and book swap. Mann said that paper is 40 percent of the municipal solid waste stream, so people really need to make every effort to keep it out of the landfill. Mann said she would love to see the Fayetteville Public Library set up the exchange again.

“I miss that thing, too,” Lamkins said, “But I haven’t been able to come up with a solution.”

Categories: Features