I often find myself explaining that I am a conservator, not a conservationist.  (“Conservationists save the environment,” I say, “which is also important, but not what I do.”)  In the past few years, however, I’ve started to realize that the line between the two types of conservation is not as distinct as I once thought.

On November 1-2, 2007, the Gray Areas to Green Areas: Developing Sustainable Practices in Preservation Environments Symposium (GAGA) took place at the University of Texas at Austin.  I was privileged to participate as the editor of the GAGA Symposium Proceedings, which were published online in September, 2008.  Attending the symposium and working with the authors was my first formal exposure to sustainability issues in preservation, and the first time it occurred to me that preservation professionals could — and should — take responsibility for the environment around them, and not just the historic and artistic artifacts within that environment.

When I joined the staff of Iowa State University Library, ISU’s Live Green! Initiative appealed to my personal and professional interest in supporting a greener world.  Today’s 2010 Symposium on Enhancing Sustainability at Iowa State University: Building the Green Continuum afforded an opportunity to appreciate the inclusive, campus-wide nature of ISU’s efforts toward a more sustainable way of living and learning.  The audience heard about innovative projects and programs driven by undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff from Dining Services, the Department of Residence, Utilities & Facilities, the Library, Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business Administration, Liberal Studies, Engineering, Evolution and Organismal Biology… the list goes on.

Our own Parks Library was recognized for its energy savings of over $1,000 per day during the partial shut-down over winter break (from December 24-January4), and Sarah Passonneau, Assistant to the Dean of the Library and Chair of the Library Green Team, spoke about the Library’s “3-legged stool” approach to sustainability: environmental, social, and economic.  ISU Head of Preservation Hilary Seo has also been an integral part of the Library Green Team, reflecting our department’s commitment to developing greener practices.  Expect future posts on the Preservation Department’s involvement in ISU’s Live Green! Initiative and broader sustainability issues in library preservation.  Maybe it is possible to be both conservator and conservationist.