09/08/2009 05:36 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Re-"Kindle" Our Past with Green Technology

Princeton-based Research and Collections Preservation Consortium (ReCAP), owned and operated by the New York Public Library, Columbia University, and Princeton University is now using solar energy to help power its environmentally-controlled library.

ReCAP's mission is to preserve rare and valuable books from the natural process of decay. According to published reports, "The existing facility comprised a series of four 15,000-square-foot refrigerated modules that held 7.5 million library items. The latest expansion, completed in March, added a fifth module, which increased ReCAP's total area to 85,000 square feet and total capacity to 10 million items." Technically speaking, in order to protect the collection, temperatures must be maintained at 55 degrees fahrenheit and relative humidity at 35%.

The facility's five thousand solar panels, capable of generating 370 kilowatt-hours, were installed on the roofs of both the new and existing modules. This sustainability project, designed by KSS Architects, demonstrates that there are many different technologies and constituencies involved in the project of adapting to changing times.

Preserving books is one of our most important duties if we are going remain relevant in the eyes of future societies. Whether used to preserve the "Articles of Confederation" or an edition of "Atlas Shrugged", the latest in green and sustainable technology is the key to archiving our diverse cultural legacy. And so while manufacturers are gearing us up for the next step in technology with products such as Kindle, we can never forgot what "new" products got us here and why facilities such as ReCAP are so vital.

Jonathan A. Schein is the publisher of and