Growing up in the Cape Verde Islands, Humberto Oliveira saw firsthand the importance of reuse and recycling whenever possible – an understanding he brings to his work as a Preservation Assistant in Tozzer Library. In an effort to reduce the amount of waste he produces, Oliveira often saves and reuses book boards and other binding materials.
“Just by its nature, this work has a lot to do with reusing materials, because we’re trying to preserve as much of the original as possible,” he said. “When I’m working on a book, one of the first things I look at is the cover boards. If they are OK, I’ll reuse them rather than use a new board.”
It isn’t only cover boards that Oliveira finds additional uses for.
In one corner of the Tozzer Library Conservation Lab, Oliveira collects leftover pieces of bookcloth which would normally be thrown away. Rather than use new pieces of the cloth, he often uses the scraps when rebinding books, resulting in less waste and less expense for the library. Oliveira also regularly recycles book labels rather than printing new ones.
Oliveira’s most visible recycling effort, however, isn’t in the stacks, but sits in a wadded pile on his desk. Rather than throwing away the paper towels he uses to wash his hands, Oliveira saves – and finds a myriad of uses – for them.
“We wash our hands many times a day, because we don’t want any residue from anything we touch to get on the books we’re working on,” Oliveira explained. “Whenever I wash my hands, I keep the towels, because I can use them to clean the spines of books, or I’ll use them as scrap paper for gluing. I try to get at least two uses out of them before I throw them away.”
“Ultimately, these steps will end up saving the library money,” Oliveira said. “Reusing materials means we don’t need to buy as much new materials. Some people might say, ‘Oh, that’s a waste of time,’ but I don’t see it that way. I like the fact that my job lets me contribute to the library’s sustainability efforts.”