Thinking Sustainably to Support Indigenous Literacy

Indigenous Literacy Foundation

Did you know that around 30 million printed books are held in collections by Australian Public libraries?

But as new books come in and old ones can’t be used anymore, libraries have to get rid of around 4.5 million books every year. That’s nearly 1,800 tonnes of books going to landfill.

Library supplier James Bennett is looking to change these statistics. Armed with a new Sustainability Project, they set out with an ambitious plan to reduce the numbers of library books ending up in landfill and giving back to the community at the same time.

We recently sat down with James Bennett’s Managing Director, Kim Jardine to learn more about the project.

“We’ve been supplying books to libraries for 50 plus years,” says Kim, “And what we were seeing was that after about five years, books were no longer usable and are being ‘weeded’ out by libraries." 

"While libraries do their best to sell books on, or donate them after they’ve lived out their shelf life, a large proportion of books still need to be disposed of. And because all libraries laminate their books, they can’t be pulped and recycled – they go straight to landfill.”

This is where James Bennett stepped in, setting up their Sustainability Project, and aiming to collect unwanted books from libraries and find them a second life elsewhere. Their project also provides libraries with a means to meet one of their Sustainability Development Goals as set by ALIA and IFLA.”

Libraries can sign up individually to the program, and James Bennett will collect their old books, free of charge. They can also choose whether they would like any profits made to come back to their library, or be donated to the ILF.

“We identify the books into two streams,” Kim tells us, “There are books that could be resold or have a second life in literacy programs, and then those that we can’t do anything further with. Any money we make reselling or reusing the books we either give back to libraries to purchase more books or digital services for their community, or donate on the library’s behalf, to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. If there are books we cannot do anything with, we pay for the plastic covers to be removed, and then recycle the books sustainably.”

For Kim, choosing ILF as the Sustainability Project’s Charity of Choice was an easy decision.

“We believe in what ILF does, in providing Indigenous peoples the opportunity to write and publish their own stories, and particularly supplying books to remote communities,” says Kim,

“In a similar fashion, James Bennet is a book supplier as well, so that resonated very strongly with us. Supporting reading, education and joy is something we’re very passionate about and ILF does exactly that.”

After a short trial phase, the Sustainability Project has been operating since March, and has achieved a fantastic amount in a short space of time.

“So far we’ve collected 90,000 books,” says Kim, “We’ve sold around 4,500 books, and donated profits back to libraries as well as to the ILF. For the others, we paid for the laminate to be removed so the books could be recycled – and so those 90,000 books were saved from landfill.”

“We really want to be a positive partner in the industry. This Project really came from us thinking about the value we want to bring to our role, and how we want to give back to our community, including looking after our precious land.”

At ILF, we love this brilliant initiative and encourage all libraries to get involved. You can find more information here.

“The James Bennett Sustainability Project is an innovative solution enabling libraries to repurpose discarded library materials as donations to communities in need, and contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by increasing recycling, reducing landfill, and improving literacy outcomes.  Libraries can opt to receive credits for new library materials, or donate funds to support agencies including the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.  I am delighted to support the James Bennett Sustainability Project, and encourage libraries to participate in this worthy project." - Viv Barton, President, Australian Library and Information Association. 

“Collection management and maintenance is a fundamental function of a library service to ensure collections remain up-to-date, relevant and accessible to the community. The disposal of withdrawn library items has always been a dilemma for the library industry as unfortunately many withdrawn items are generally sent to landfill.

James Bennett’s Sustainability Program has been a godsend!

In early 2020, Maribyrnong Library undertook an extensive Revitalisation strategy and with James Bennett’s Program was able to ensure that many of the nearly 16,000 withdrawn items were sustainably processed. Many items were donated to charitable organisations, others were sold and yet others were sustainably recycled. The outcome is a win-win for all parties- our library collections have been reinvigorated and withdrawn items have been dealt with thoughtfully and sustainably with some even being provided a second opportunity to enrich someone’s life.” 
Anita Catoggio, Maribyrnong Library Service

“Blacktown City Library Service was proud to be an early adopter of a project that offered so many positive outcomes for both the library and community. Joining James Bennett’s Sustainability Project meant that we knew our discarded items were not going to landfill but being redistributed to projects that offered communities outcomes by strengthening literacy, learning, imagination skills into the future including raising much needed funds to support for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.”Joy Bourke, Blacktown Library Service

  • Posted 08 October, 2020