Moving Toward a More Sustainable Computing Environment

Moving Toward a More Sustainable Computing Environment

Library IT’s contribution to our energy conservation efforts for fiscal year 2009 have been fairly successful.  Library IT has managed to remove all unused and extremely low use machines.  These machines were removed from several departments and most were completely voluntary.  None of the removals were met with any resistance from faculty or staff.  This spirit of cooperation is greatly appreciated.  However, we have a very long way to go in our efforts to become more energy conscious.  We would like to continue our footprint reduction efforts in order for the Library to reach AC’s previously endorsed goal of eliminating as much as ten percent of the faculty and staff computer footprint in the next fiscal year.  Some of this reduction will come through unit closures and consolidation.  However, much of the reduction will need to come from re-assessing our actual hardware needs.

The Library needs to be mindful of our need to support faculty, staff, and units by providing the equipment necessary to support their work. However, we also need to bring the ratio of machines to personnel into closer alignment. There are multiple benefits to such a move. It will reduce our energy consumption, reduce our generation of e-waste, save operational costs through the reduction of under-utilized networking costs, and should, in the long-term, improve Library IT’s ability to support computing needs. In order to achieve this goal, the University Library needs to agree upon base line hardware to personnel ratios.

Personal Computing Needs

The Energy Conservation and Sustainability Working Group and the Manager of Workstation Network Support believe that an obvious base line for full time faculty and staff would be no more than one desktop computer per full time employee.  We feel that no more than two desktop computers per one full time equivalent graduate assistant position are reasonable.  This should give ample flexibility for scheduling of these part time employees.

Unit Computing Needs

Desktop computer allocations for part time hourly and undergraduate student employees and for unstaffed locations will need to be determined jointly by Unit Heads and the Manager of IT Workstation Network Support.  However, the University Library should strive to reduce the number of required machines as much as possible by scheduling work hours so that fewer machines can be shared by more part time employees.

In addition to desktop computing, the University Library needs to move forward with our reduction of peripheral equipment – in particular printers.  While the number of public printers remains manageable, the number of printers in faculty and staff workspaces has continued to grow despite our best efforts.  With recent improvements in our network infrastructure and the development of faster and more efficient printer technology, there is little to justify maintaining the large number of printers currently in our system.  In order to do this, the University Library needs to work toward changing a deeply ingrained aspect of our culture – the notion that there needs to be a printer on nearly every desk.

In the past several months, Library IT has begun to move to a shared workgroup printer model that helps the Library achieve its goal of reducing e-waste and conserving paper. The new workgroup printers offer faster throughput, automatic double-sided printing, and lower energy consumption among other benefits.  The only drawback is that multiple users have to share a printer rather than having access to a personal printer on their desk.  Library IT does not see this as a problem except in the most extreme cases, such as the need to print confidential personnel or financial information.

We have begun to deploy multi function printers where appropriate.  These units can replace a printer, copier, scanner and in some cases, a fax machine with one piece of equipment.  IT WNS has installed two of these units so far with very good results.  These two units replace a total of eight pieces of old equipment and even provide color printing that was previously not available.  Continuing these efforts in the next fiscal year should allow us to eliminate most, if not all, personal inkjet and laser printers, fax machines and small office copiers.  We should strive to install workgroup printers that could support up to thirty employees per printer. That does not mean that we will only have one printer per 30-employees, but it does mean that we should be looking to install equipment that will support all of the printing needs of a single unit with one or two machines.

Next Steps

  • Discuss this Proposal:    Meet with AC, ITAC, and Services Advisory to develop some consensus on appropriate numbers, etc….
  • Return to AC in July:       During the July meeting, we hope to return to AC with a consensus opinion for approval.
  • Continue Working:         During the next month, Library IT will continue working with individual units in an effort to move toward our stated goals.