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This hit is quite long but with excellent suggestions. I think I  
successfully copied and pasted all of the replies. It is quite long but  
Thank you for all of the good ideas. I will be working on this in  the new 
Original Post:
Dear Colleagues, 

I am looking for some good ideas to reduce the  amount of printing and the  
amount of unclaimed print jobs on my  library printers. 

Here's my situation: 30 desktop computers, 4 printers  and 1200  students.

Students just print, not knowing where they are  printing to. As a result,  
they print again and we end up with many  unclaimed print jobs. We have 
increased  our signage and are working on  a plan to raise their 
consciousness and 
educate  them.I spoke at a  faculty meeting and sent an e-mail to the 

Teacher  assignments are part of the problem: lengthy study guides posted 
the  Internet, lots of poster making with color photos etc.

We do not have the  staff to centralize print commands and have kids come  
pick them up nor  do we have enough staff to collect fees from the  

Thanks  in advance for any good ideas. I can post a hit.

Amy Ipp
Millburn  Middle School
Millburn NJ
_LU83@aol.com_ ( 

We have the same problem, on a smaller scale.  We have not solved it  yet, 
and you are trying some of the same things I have tried.
--Printers  located at or near front desk, students must ask before 
printing (or ask before  printing more than X number of pages.) Works OK with 
younger students, not so  well with older ones.
--I know of schools that charge per page.  We have  considered letting them 
have X number of "free" print pages each semester (would  have to figure 
out how to keep track in an automated way) and then charge after  50 pages per 
semester (or whatever number.)
--Students do not unsupervised  have access to color printer anymore.  If a 
teacher needs them to print in  color, that teacher can supervise it at one 
of our few color printers, or  students can make them from home.  One of 
the art rooms has a color  printer, and the art teacher deals with it.
--If review sheets are left in  the printer, and I can tell who (or which 
department) they belong to, I put them  in the teacher box with a note "left 
in printer."  Although it doesn't show  which student printed, At least it 
shows the teacher that this waste is going  on.  There have been times when 
I've left 2 or 3 sets of Spark Notes or  biology review notes in teacher 

This year, I put in a  request that next time the library gets new printers 
they be able to default to  double sided.  Two new printers will be put in 
this summer, and they will  default to double sided.
I think that will be the biggest help.

Good  luck to you.  I'd love to hear what other suggestions people  send.

Many of our middle school teachers have students put their  assignments on 
their google documents.  The teacher set up a google email  page for them.  
There are other ways of doing that now.  google email  not as easy to set up 
now, but there are other ways of doing that now.   

We have only used one toner cartridge this year, so it has imporved  
considerable from two years ago.
We share your pain!  One thing that we have going for us (one student  
printer, 800+ students) is that the print jobs come out with a "watermark" with  
the student's name and a code for grade level (each student has a 
county-issued  laptop).  This makes it possible for them to be sorted.  We have a  
sorter (one of those long strips with a divider for each letter) for each 
grade  level and a couple of times a day, student aides sort the pile of 
unclaimed  papers.  Each teacher also has an electronic "drop box" for assignments, 
 although that hasn't seemed to reduce the amount of printing.  On Monday, 
I  cleaned out the 6th grade unclaimed papers from November and it was well 
over a  ream of paper.  Some of the schools in the county have restrictions 
on  printing, but we haven't been able to push that through in our school 
I'd love to implement this at my school, but I have been butting heads on  
this topic with the tech person since my first day (which was this school  
year).  Since I have a small school (450 students), I'm able to tell the  
students as they're in the library's computer lab to minimize print and to ONLY 
 print if REQUIRED to turn in for an assignment.  They can always email  
articles and online source information to themselves or Delicious or Diigo it  
(online bookmarking).
I loved GSLIS at U of Illinois.  
  1)  They named all of their printers, on the network (visible  in the 
Print window) and on the printer itself.  If you print to Spartacus,  you go 
directly to Spartacus.  If you print to Chip, you go to Chip.   If you needed 
to print in color, it went to Dale.  
  2)  There was also a quota locked into each student's login to  allow for 
only a certain number of prints per school year and pay beyond their  quota 
There are 2 problems of doing this in my school.  
   1) There are two computer labs, only one is attached to  the library.  
The printer in each lab is practically the same name  (Lexmark...).  If I 
could get the tech person to label the printers on the  network as "Business 
Lexmark" or "Library Lexmark", we wouldn't have this  issue.  Or... if the 
business lab only had access to its printer and the  library only had access to 
its printer.
   2) Students consistenlty forget their own login and use the  generic 
username and password.  Not to mention that the tech person doesn't  want to 
tackle this issue.
This is going to sound simplistic, so I apologize in advance  But:

Have you considered simply not offering printing as  a
service--considered shutting off and/or removing your printer(s)?  That's
what I did. And I've never regretted it. Plus, I really don't get  any
pushback on the issue.

Proclaiming my library GREEN, I simply  stopped offering printing a few
years ago and have never regretted it. The  ability to print stuff, I
realized, is not a skill I care to impart. It's not  really a skill at
all. A pigeon could easily be trained to print stuff. In  fact, most
often, at least in my middle school, printing was just a way to  bypass
or forestall thought, effort, and learning. It's an  ecologically
wasteful and educationally counterproductive thing to do.  Plus--and this
will sound severe--I consider any teacher that creates an  assignment
culminating in an assessment that's largely just an  APPROPRIATED
assemblage of printed out material to be a pretty poor teacher  indeed.
(walk down the hallways of most American schools and you'll likely  see
dozens of the dreaded "poster projects" on display, most full  color
testaments to the complete mastery of a lone learning  objective:
"student will be able to successfully initiate a print command."  

My kids have all pretty much knocked that 21st century skill out of  the
park by the time they reach middle school, so why re-teach?

Now:  What about the printing of an original digital product? Certainly,
that's a  different dealie. Got me there. The thing is, we're set up NOT
to be a  general purpose computer lab by design. Being mission-centered
is great for  instruction and, among many other benefits, it keeps your
facility from  becoming a mindless paper mill/print shop. That, as I see
it, is what our  computer labs are for. We have about 35 workstations on
our library floor and  they're used exclusively as research kiosks. When
students want to make a  document portable, they either use the e-mail
bots built into all our  databases or, if using a standard publicly
available web site, for example,  they're able to use Google docs as
their note-taking/linking/cuttie-pastie  medium. That takes covers nearly
all the bases and fells a lot less trees.  Once in a great while there'll
be a compelling need to print, like when a  computerless student has been
absent and is trying to scramble to smash and  grab an armload of stuff
to take home and digest. On those rare occasions, we  make it happen.

Yeah, printing... I remember the bad old days; it's like  recalling an
addiction: Endlessly feeding those beasts ream after  ream...the
well-meaning kids who'd walk up to me beaming with a two inch  thick
stack of what used to be pristine Canadian flora in their  hands...(ugh,
I shudder)...and they'd say things like

"Look, Mr.  Hastings! I got all this! I got tons of it!" 

And I'd feel the punch of  shame in my gut 'cause I knew that all they
really "got" was a pile of wasted  pulp. I always knew it. I'd know it
'cause, almost without fail, I'd find, if  I just looked at the printout
and asked a few questions, that the amount  printed was inversely
proportionate to the amount learned. 

Damn you  Epson! Curse you, Lexmark!

Over a decade ago, Dr. Jane Healy visited  schools to see how technology
was being applied. She then wrote about it in  her book "Failure to
Connect." Teachers, she discovered, "often mistake  downloading for
thought." Ten years hence, I still think she was right, and  it's the
same deal with printing. I just decided to quit participating in  that
masquerade. Cold turkey. 

One last anecdote:

I'm old  enough to have introduced digital resources to my building.
(Yikes.) I  remember back in the day making a CD-ROM atlas program
available on an old  PS2 that was connected to a printer. Back then a
social studies teacher  routinely would come in to have kids do the
research for a standard geography  "poster project," with map, flag and
stats. Back then, kids hand drew their  maps as a matter of course,
graphologically experiencing the contours of  borders and landforms,
labeling oceans and rivers, and cities and mountain  ranges. 

When students started printing out their maps instead, he didn't  blink
an eye. Soon, I was aghast, as if I'd created an  education-eating
monster, but he seemed delighted. The maps were so much  neater and
uniform, after all. He quickly began instructing his students:  "Make
sure to print your map!" So, kids would patiently queue up at the  PS2
for a long wait, call up their map, and print it off so that they  could
paste it to their poster. Achievement went way up; every map  was
perfect, and every student a well-trained pigeon.

When money become tight last year,  the school didn’t order paper for a 
couple of weeks.  We recycled those  extra copies by printing on the other 
side.  Teachers started accepting  work on those recycled pages.  We also taught 
the students to copy and  paste for notes plus change the margins to .5 
before  printing. 
When we did have paper, I just  didn’t fill the printers.  I would delete 
all print jobs before adding  paper.  I told the students I didn’t have much 
paper and it was for final  copy only.  Some students brought their own 
paper, but then the printers  started running out of toner. 
This year, the teachers are being  encouraged to have a “paperless” 
classroom.  We’ve had in-services for  this.  I haven’t had as many students 
coming to the library to print.   I also send them to the teacher to print. 
It’s been while in changing the  expectations of students and teachers.  I 
still don’t put much paper in the  printer.  This year in the new library 
facility, I asked that printers NOT  be installed on the lab computers.  
Money—lack of—has changed  people’s.  It’s a powerful motivator for  
Our solution?  Charge  for printing.  We charge ten cents per page, unless 
it is work they type  themselves (lab reports, essays, etc.)  Cutting and 
pasting does not  qualify as typed yourself, and if there are pictures, there 
is always a  charge.  Some of the other high schools charge for everything 
run  through  their printers, but we are in a high povery area, and so pay 
for  student work. When I came here 7 years ago, this system was in place, and 
I was  appalled.  However, it turns out to be very workable, and I became a 
 convert.  We maintain a cash drawer which isn't that hard to do.  All  
this eliminates the downloading pages and pages of garbage, but still allows 
for  kids who have no access to a printer at home. At several of Salem's other 
high  schools, kids are given a printing allowance which is administered  
electronically.  When its used up, too bad.  We do have one color  printer 
attached to our circulation computor, but not to the student machines.  For 50 
cents per page, we will print incolor from a disc or flash drive. Ink  
cartridges are now running $41.00 apiece, and the kids do understand why we are  
charging. It might take you awhile to convert, but believe me it works, and 
is  really very little trouble.  Oh, I forgot to say, the printer is behind 
the  circulation desk , where kids are not allowed, which allows us to look 
at what  is printed.   
I've been mulling this over in  my mind, and I don't see how just saying no 
to printing meets student's  needs.  Being green is well and good, but is 
it in your district's  educational goals?  How does this further students' 
academic  success?

It may work as far as simplifying the librarian's load, and  making an 
environmental statement, but student's have diverse research  assignments, and, 
they also come from different economic backgrounds.  Not  all students have 
the ability to sit in front of a computer the entire time they  are working 
on an assignment.  It's not always possible for a library to  have unlimited 
books on every subject so that all students can check out books  for their 
topic.  They also have different learning styles, and some  students 
actually need to have a printed copy of materials in hand to process  the 
information successfully.  The point is not that anyone can push the  print button; 
the important thing is that students are able to get the  educational 
information they need in a format that they can use to learn and  succeed.  One 
size doesn't fit every student, and I think we have to be  more adaptable and 
make sure we are providing access to the information they  need in a variety 
of formats and teaching them how to use that information  correctly and 

One of the things we work on is helping  students make decisions about what 
is the best source of information.  All  too often, students turn to Google 
because it's fast and easy.  They end up  using sources like Wikipedia or when they can get much better  information from the databases we 
provide.  We use a different  approach.  If students choose to use Wikipedia or 
other generic online  sites, they get 5 pages free, and then we charge for 
each additional page.   If they use one of the databases we provide, I don't 
charge them to print at  all.  I want them to learn to distinguish between 
good, scholarly  information, and the stuff that a random Google search 
provides.  Searching  Gale Group online requires them to stop and think and learn 
new search  techniques that they will use in college.  To encourage them to 
do this, we  offer the incentive of not charging them to print these 

It  works well for us, but it may not be the solution for other  libraries. 
You could get your tech people  to segregate the printers - one that all 
30 library computers print to, one  (in a more secure location) for 
faculty use, and a couple for print jobs  that come from other places.

If you can put all of the public printers  together that would help some, 
too, and perhaps eliminate the issue  altogether. Kids would still have 
to look at several printers, but if they  are lined up in a row that 
shouldn't be too hard. 
Here is what I did when I was a middle school librarian (2 years  ago):
1.  I trained my students (yes, I re-taught constantly) to NEVER print  
from the Internet.  The rationale was that I was saving them money (I still  
use this with high school students).  I have them read the info on the  
computer screen & copy & paste only the information they need onto a  Word doc.  
They can manipulate font size & margins that way.  I  charge 10 cents per 
page & have only one printer (then & Now) in the  library.  Students print & 
then come to the circ desk to pick up their  pages.
2.  At the middle school level, I created a print card on cover stock  with 
25 numbers on it.  Each semester, students could request a new card  (we 
made a notation on their record when they received a card) and 25 pages of  
free printing.  After that, they could purchase another card for $1.00 or  pay 
10 cents a page for each page they printed. I explained about the card 
every  chance I got.  The first year was confusing, but by the second year,  
students knew to ask for their free card or to purchase a second card.   Very 
few printed from the Internet (mostly new to my school students, who had  not 
heard my spiel).  I was able to do this because my principal gave me a  
generous budget that easily paid for the paper & toner we used.  I  would never 
"just say no" because, although students could print for free in the  
computer labs, they could not use them unless they were in with a class.  
Therefore, we were the only place in the building where students could print a  
last minute project, etc.  It is a service for our students that I think is  
necessary & appropriate.  Before I left (and here at the high school),  a few 
students were e-mailing  their papers to me to print for them &  they would 
just stop by in the a.m. & pay for / pickup their copies on the  way to 
class.  I gladly did this to support them & their  teachers.  
There's lots more I could say, but you get the idea.  I vote for  finding 
ways to support the students & structuring them (creating policies)  that 
make it easier for you to do so. The middle school was 1500 students,  staffed 
with  me & 1 aide.  The high school is 2500 students with  2 librarians & 1 
Hope this helps.
Here at St. John's International School in Belgium, we have a printing  
system called FollowMe.  Everyone in the school has a four digit print  code.  
When someone gives a followme print command, they can go to any  followme 
printer, put in their code, and have their job printed.  Students  are 
allocated a certain number of pages per month (for seniors doing IB it is  50).  
Right now faculty have no limit on printing or copying.  If students need 
more, they have to ask the IT coordinator.  It works  well for us.  We have one 
followme printer in the library and there are 2  others available for 
student use.  The FollowMe printer can also copy, but  we have not enabled that 
function for students.
Here is a link for one vendor site:  _ 
(        You can find more by googling 
followme printing.
We are high school of 2900 students.  This was a huge problem for  us,
but purchased CZ Print Station (print manager).  Makes all  the
difference in the world.  We realease print jobs from one  master
station.  We set it to not allow printing over a certain number  of
pages.  If the student never requests to have their job released,  we
just delete it.  We can release it just once if they send it  multiple
times.  The master station is the media clerk's computer, so  she manages
most of that.

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