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Thursday, November 6 • 11:30am - 12:15pm
The Big Shift: How VCU Libraries Moved 1.5 Million Volumes to Prepare for the Construction of a New Library

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The Problem: Over the years, VCU Libraries (VCUL) has been creative in dealing with inadequacy of space. Built in 1975, James Branch Cabell (Cabell) library is more than 90% over capacity, and optimum user space is lacking. Initiatives to correct this include the digital shift. As we repurpose our space, going digital is a big part of it. Subscribing to electronic only journals has been our preference. Replacing print series with the digital version as they become available is another ongoing practice. None of these measures could bring the building closer to 21st Century standard. We went from an enrollment of 21,764 in 1990 to 32, 284 in 2009. By 2010, in order to meet VCUL’s aspiration and projected service goals for the next 20 years and beyond, it was imperative that we build an addition to Cabell and renovate the old space.

The Solution: To accomplish this goal, the architects’ study and consequent library planning for functional areas revealed that there will be a total of 156,000 square feet, of which 63,000 will be renovated space. To reach this target, we did the following:-reduced the size of the very large reference collection by moving items to stacks, storage, and withdrawing. -gave up a large portion of government documents, particularly those available online.-moved part of the media collection to storage.This meant moving about 177,000 volumes out of Cabell to relinquish the amount of space specified for renovation in the architect’s drawing. But with both onsite and off-site storage full to capacity, what followed was a domino style high impact activity, with maximum volume manpower.

The Plan: First, collection management librarians reviewed the collection in off-site and onsite storage facilities, using a variety of criteria and made decisions about materials to keep, store or withdraw from the collection. The second step is to remove items designated for off-site storage to a temporary holding facility to allow for the installation of high density compact shelving which can accommodate up to 500 thousand volumes. The third stage is to review the circulating collection and remove those that meet certain defined criteria to store or withdraw. Catalogers kept track of deaccessioning of withdrawn materials at each stage. The fourth stage is to shift the remaining volumes in the stacks.

The Execution: This paper shares our process for dealing with this “mammoth glacier.” Moving our construction forward, involves about 90 staff, helpers and volunteers, in four major departments who, since last October, reviewed, touched, moved, shelved or stored, or withdrew 1.5 volumes, with minimal disruption or inconvenience to users, a phenomenon we call “The Big Shift”.

avatar for Ibironke Lawal

Ibironke Lawal

Science and Engineering Collections Librarian, Virginia Commonwealth University
I have been at VCU for over a decade as collections librarian and liaison to the School of Engineering and science departments in the College of Humanities and Sciences. Developing and maintaining relevant collections, providing effective service to students, moving them toward academic... Read More →
avatar for Patricia Selinger

Patricia Selinger

Head, Preservation and Inventory Management, Virginia Commonwealth University
Skill set: bookbinding, book repair, preventive conservation, collections care, training interns, custom enclosures, book art, pop-up structures, environmental monitoring, disaster planning and recovery.

Thursday November 6, 2014 11:30am - 12:15pm EST
Citadel Green Room, Embassy Suites 337 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29403