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Collections on the move: Safeguarding centuries of knowledge

19 May 2017

Susan Isaac

Last week, the Library Blog told the story of how the Library collections were protected during the Second World War. Now we are moving the collections again as the College redevelops its London home. This time, we have had more time to plan and ensure that the collections are moved in the optimum condition to safeguard centuries of knowledge for future generations to discover.

Kostas - ghostbusterThere are approximately 110,000 books and journal volumes in the Library collections. They vary greatly in size: the biggest has a spine that is 73 cm long, whilst the smallest fits into the palm of your hand. By the time the collections are moved offsite, each item will have been cleaned, checked for condition, barcoded and scanned. So, what does that actually mean for the Library staff and contractors?

The first stage is cleaning. A conservation vacuum cleaner is used to clean dust and dirt from the edges and cover of the book. The shelves are dusted as well before the books are put back on them. As well as using a professional library cleaning company, our Paper Conservator Kostas channelled his inner Ghostbuster working in this room...

The next stage is to wrap any volumes that need more protection in two layers of acid free tissue paper. Some of our books are so large that it takes two people working together to wrap them.

2 Books to be wrapped3 Hands

Once a book has been wrapped, a label with the bibliographic details for the volume is added for identification, as wrapped books look very similar! Every item must have a barcode to ensure that we know where it is at any time. When a volume has been wrapped, the barcode will be stuck to the spine.

4 Wrapped pile5 Barcode

Staff then work in pairs to scan each barcode into enormous inventory spreadsheets. This data will be used when the books are packed for removal to identify what is in each crate, and will allow us to manage them in their new location. The barcodes are scanned using hand held devices and tablets before being uploaded into a master inventory.

6 Inventory

Once the books have been prepared for their move, they are usually returned to the shelves until the crates arrive. The books shown in these photos are part of the extreme oversize collection known as ‘elephant’ folios, which can be up to 127 cm in height and weigh as much as 14.1 kg. They are being packed into mobile cages for removal due to their size. They have each been wrapped again in a layer of bubble wrap to provide further protection for the journey.

7 Wrapped view8 Cages

Keep following our journey: look out for the tag line “Collections on the move”. You can find out more about this major project in our previous blog posts:

More information on the future of the Lincoln’s Inn Fields buildings can be found here.

Susan Isaac, Information Services Manager

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