A Green Library on the Emerald Isle

The highlight of the busman’s holiday portion of my recent trip to Ireland was a stop at the greenest, most sustainability-conscious library I’ve ever encountered, the Boole Library at University College Cork.

The library is named for George Boole (1815-1864), humanitarian, mathematical genius, and inventor of Boolean algebra and symbolic logic, whose work laid the foundation for modern computing and the information age.

A Green Oasis

The Boole Library is a green oasis in the middle of the Emerald Isle.  A place where disposable cups are not allowed and a planted green garden grows inside along one reading room wall to “create a more positive and healthy space for students.”

The sustainability initiatives at UCC began formally in 2007 when students launched a Green Campus program.  This led to their becoming in 2010 the first university in the world to be awarded a Green Flag from the Foundation of Environmental Education.  In the spring of 2018 hundreds of students signed a Waste Reduction Bill to commemorate the national “Sick of Plastic Day of Action” on campus.

Sick of Plastic

Upon entering the Boole Library, visitors encounter the Plastic Wave, a sculpture created from the disposable water bottles collected by the library’s cleaning staff over the course of eight days.  “[W]e hope it will make people more aware of the ridiculous amount of single-use plastic we discard on a daily basis,” the staff say of the sculpture.

The UCC Library’s Inspiring Green Energy Campaign  

Digital and print signs around the library remind staff and visitors to conserve resources and do their part to save the earth.  The library initiated a centralized waste collection system to eliminate the need for garbage cans around the building.  This means staff and researchers must bring their own recycling, trash, and compostable materials to a central collection station on the first floor of the building.  This change saves 10,000 plastic garbage bags every year.

Everyone is also encouraged to bring their own water bottles and refill them at clean, well-maintained water fountains instead of using disposables.

And by implementing some low-cost building upgrades and practices – i.e., turning off unneeded lights to save energy – and following the university’s energy management plan, the library has saved significant amounts of energy and operating costs, which are to be reinvested in future environmental projects.

The Boole Library is bright and airy and beautiful.  And the noteworthy commitment shared by the staff and students to promote environmentally sustainable practices is inspiring and something we can strive to emulate at CUNY.


For more information on sustainability, please see the resources highlighted in our Earth & Environmental Sciences research guide.

Especially note the GreenFILE database, which includes scholarly and general-interest articles and government sources covering climate change, green building, pollution, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and recycling, and GREENR (Global Reference on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources), which focuses on the study of sustainability and the environment.

If you’d like to learn more about George Boole, see a profile of him on the UCC’s website.  Or check out Des McHale’s biography, The Life and Work of George Boole:  A Prelude to the Digital Age or George Boole:  Selected Manuscripts on Logic and its Philosophy, edited by I. Grattan-Guinness and Gérard Bornet.

Boole’s personal papers are held in the Special Collections and Archives department at the Boole Library and his academic papers may be found at the Royal Society in London.

Images:  All photos are by the author and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

About the Author

Donna Davey is an Adjunct Reference Librarian at the Graduate Center Library.