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Collections on the move: Harrow Green getting hands-on

29 Sep 2017

Hillary Webb

Moving books around is a regular feature of library work; moving 5 km of books and journals to off-site storage is not. We knew from the outset that we would need the services of a removals company and, after a selection process, we appointed Harrow Green in January 2017 to carry out the moves and work with us to manage the process.

Book packing 1We had planned a series of moves that would take place between February and August, but had reached a critical point. With only a few weeks to go before our first move, and with Library staff still delivering “business as usual”, as well as working on the collections, we were desperately in need of additional help to prepare the books for their move off-site. Fortunately, Harrow Green have a specialist library and archive service, and a team experienced in preparing collections for removal. We were delighted to welcome our first crew of four, who set to work wrapping fragile items and making phase boxes for others. The team then barcoded the volumes and scanned those barcodes into inventories prepared by Library staff. Once the inventory was complete, we were ready to move!

On packing and moving days, the Harrow Green team grew to allow a steady flow of crates to be prepared with foam padding, filled, and arranged in sequence for loading into the lorry.

Book packing 2Book packing 3Book packing 4

Having completed our first move, we reviewed our plans for the rest of the moves and estimated the amount of help we would need for different phases of the project. Harrow Green were responsive to our requirements, and while we had a pair of assistants from the outset, we were able to call on a wider team as needed. By the end of the project, we had a steady group of four, who became very much part of the Library team. They settled in so well that we were entrusted with their spare boots and breakfast cereal for the duration of the project!

Harrow Green’s experience helped us to find the best approach to packing our elephant folios, which were stored in areas that were difficult to access. Every volume had to be carried down a narrow staircase to a cleaning station. After cleaning, the volumes were wrapped in tissue paper and then packed into cages that were padded out with layers of bubble wrap and blankets. This whole process was, by necessity, carried out very quickly, as we had to move the cages to a secure storage area until they could be moved off site.

Book packing 5Book packing 6

The Reading Room Gallery posed a different problem. The collection in this area needed to be cleaned and wrapped, but the gallery walkways are narrow, with insufficient space to work on the collections in situ. Lift access was also limited. On a move day, using a larger team, Harrow Green formed a human chain and moved the collection down to a more accessible work area.

Book packing 7At other times, the removals team had to work in staffed areas, around the Library team. The main Library office had very little free space for the movement of crates, so books were passed hand to hand down the ladder before being put into crates on the other side of the room.

It has been a great experience working with Harrow Green on this project. Their professional expertise helped us to plan our moves more effectively, and the team’s upbeat and can-do approach helped keep us going whenever deadlines loomed.

Find out more about our plans to provide access to the collections for study and research here. For our Members, access to our online resources remains available 24/7 as usual. If you have any questions please contact us.

Hilary Webb, Collections Manager

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