Category Archives: Renovation

Grand Opening Tours of the Underground

Today is the grand opening of our renovated building. There are many VIP’s and donors here today to see the new spaces and to hear speeches from dignitaries. We gave a behind the scenes tour for 17 people. While it is more fun to have staff here during tours to talk about their work, it was still a fun and engaging morning.

conservation work

I set up four zones of work to show. Clockwise from the top left are: special collections conservation, Adopt-a-Book Program, custom enclosures, and circulating collections conservation. People were really interested in each section. They were especially interested in the giant newspaper that Rachel is repairing. Rachel is writing on a blog post about that, so stay tuned. It is an incredible thing.

The mark of success? Two books got adopted today! Now I need to go update that page and find some more adoptable items to put on the list.

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Beyond the Blue Fence: Finishing Rubenstein

The construction fence surrounding Rubenstein Library.

Although the inside of Rubenstein Library is now fully renovated and open for use, you may have noticed that, outside, construction vehicles and fencing linger on.

In case you’re wondering, the blue fence around Rubenstein Library is hiding a new landscaping project that will take place over the next few months. Workers will be replacing the topsoil, installing irrigation measures, planting new trees and shrubs, and hardscaping. The whole project is scheduled to be complete by December 31, 2015.

The corner entrance to Rubenstein will be open after December 31.

In the meantime, the corner entrance to Rubenstein will remain closed so that work vehicles can move back and forth without affecting pedestrians. (You can still see the gorgeous vaulted interior behind that door if you enter through the main library entrance, walk through the Photography Gallery, and hang a left).

Come December, the fences will be down, plantings will be in place, and the public will be free to use BOTH library entrances. Thanks for being patient while we put the finishing touches on Duke’s latest point of pride!

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Move Diary: Week 6

Moving HOM's medical instruments.

Dear readers, take note: it’s now the end of Week Five of the move, and we’re pretty sure we’re all going to have massive and amazing biceps come Winter Break.

This is because our manuscript collections are taking up residence in our new compact shelving. This kind of shelving moves on rails, so the shelves can slide together (in a safe and controlled way) or be cranked apart to access the shelves’ contents.  Here’s a video of Kat Stefko, our Head of Technical Services, demonstrating how they work.

So we’ll be cranking these shelves, filled with boxes of manuscripts, open and closed several times each day, to retrieve materials for patrons, to find materials to answer reference questions, to reshelve things, to pull materials for class visits . . . .

We hereby promise that we will not challenge any visiting researchers to arm wrestle. Unless they want to.

Onto other things! We have—and we really can’t believe this—ONE WEEK until we reopen. Over the course of the week, several things have been checked off the reopening “to do” list, and many more are on their way to being completed.

Our talented exhibits staff worked on the installation of one of our opening exhibits, “Languages of Anatomy: From Vesalius to the Digital Age,” which will be on display in the Chappell Family Gallery and features materials from our History of Medicine Collections.

Photo by Amy McDonald.

Display case showing 3-D printed prosthetic hand made by DukeMakers.
Display case showing 3-D printed prosthetic hand made by DukeMakers. Photo by Amy McDonald.

Books were returned to the refurbished bookcases in the beloved Biddle Rare Book Room.

Books being shelved in the Biddle Rare Book Room.
Photo by Amy McDonald.

And we finished moving our flat files (an enormous amount of work) and started moving historical medical instruments from the History of Medicine Collections, as well as our early manuscripts.

Moving HOM's medical instruments.
Moving HOM’s medical instruments. Photo by Rachel Ingold.


Moving HOM's medical instruments.
Moving HOM’s medical instruments. Photo by Rachel Ingold.

In the photo above, the long box at the right holds HOM’s late 16th or 17th century amputating saw. Here’s what it looks like out of the box, in case you’re curious:

Amputating saw from the History of Medicine Collections.

What else did we do? We practiced our teamwork by forming a bucket brigade to shelve manuscript collections.

University Archives staff bucket brigade!
University Archives staff bucket brigade! Photo by Amy McDonald.

We discovered, to our dismay, that we are not the most interesting people in the Rubenstein.

The Most Interesting Man in the Rubenstein
He is SO INTERESTING. Photo by Tracy Jackson.

And we found new challenges to test our librarian skills. This one is called “can we get all of the foam book rests to the new reading room in one trip?” (We did.)

Moving book rests.
Photo by Amy McDonald.

Look at these empty stacks in our temporary 3rd floor space! August 24th, here we come!

Empty stacks YAY!
Photo by Meghan Lyon.


The post Move Diary: Week 6 appeared first on The Devil’s Tale.

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Papyrus Project Final Update: It Is Finished For Real This Time

The papyri collection is finally in its new home in the renovated Rubenstein Library stacks. We successfully completed its move yesterday to the new vaults. Part 1 of this project started in 2010 as a proposal for a new housing strategy for the papyri. In 2012 the project began in earnest as we prepared the collections for the move out of the old stacks to make way for renovation. We finished the project in 2013 and moved the papyri to the temporary Rubenstein stacks on the third floor of Perkins Library.

Papyri in their new(ish) boxes in the renovated stacks.
Papyri in their new(ish) boxes in the renovated stacks.

Yesterday we moved the collection into its new home in the renovated Rubenstein stacks. They are now in a cool, dry and stable environment, with fire sprinklers even! I nearly shed a tear of joy when we placed the last box on their new shelves.

If you haven’t been reading The Devil’s Tale posts about the move, you really should. There are some great posts there and on the Duke Libraries Tumblr, including this little gif I made when enveloping books. I cannot wait until all of the collection is moved home.

The post Papyrus Project Final Update: It Is Finished For Real This Time appeared first on Preservation Underground.

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Moving Special Collections, Again

If you are a long-time reader you may remember a couple years ago we embarked on a large-scale enclosure project to prepare special collections materials for the their move prior to renovation. We called it the “Enabling Project.” Now that the Rubenstein Library collections are moving back, we are finding that we need to do some additional enveloping for fragile items with loose parts or furniture.

Insert into Tyvek envelope, seal, label, repeat.
Insert into Tyvek envelope, seal, label, repeat.

This time we won’t be doing thousands of items, perhaps only a few hundred. The Tyvek envelopes allow us to keep pieces together, keep furniture from scratching neighboring books, and tells us at a glance the amount of work the collection needs. It’s both good and daunting to see. If you want to see this “in action,” visit our Tumblr post.

Before and after enveloping.
Before and after enveloping.

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Save the Date! Rubenstein Library Open House, Sept. 10

RL Open House Banner 600x360

RL Open House Banner Welcome 600x360

Thursday, September 10
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Rubenstein Library, Floors 1-3 

Remarks at 2:30 p.m. in the Gothic Reading Room
by Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian
and Vice Provost for Library Affairs


After almost three years under construction, the renovated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library will open its doors to the public on Monday, August 24, in time for the start of fall classes.

Help us celebrate the transformation of a library that is truly one of the crown jewels of Duke by joining us for a special open house for the entire Duke and Triangle-area community on Thursday, September 10, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

  • Tour the new spaces and exhibits.
  • Meet and mingle with library staff.
  • Learn how the Rubenstein Library can support your research.
  • Free giveaways and light refreshments.
  • Free and open to the public.

Visitor Parking Information: A limited number of parking spaces have been reserved at Parking Garage IV (click for map), next to the Bryan Center, for visitors traveling to the open house event from off-campus. These spaces will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Additional visitor parking information is available on Duke’s Parking and Transportation website.

 Things to See

Virginia Woolf's writing desk, part of the recently acquired Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, on display in the Mary Duke Biddle Room.
An extremely rare copy of the Bay Psalm Book (1640), the first book printed in what is now the United States, on loan by special arrangement with David M. Rubenstein. On display in the Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery.
A new permanent exhibit on the history of Duke University, on display outside the Gothic Reading Room.
The renovated Gothic Reading Room, restored to its original splendor.
Our new Photography Gallery, featuring an exhibit on early 20th-century images of China by Sidney Gamble.
The new Rubenstein Library reading room, where researchers can explore our special collections.

More Opening Events and Exhibits

We’re lining up a number of events and exhibits to celebrate the opening of the Rubenstein Library throughout the fall of 2015. Check out our opening events site for a complete listing and stay tuned for regular updates.

About the Rubenstein Library Renovation

The construction crane looms over a gutted Rubenstein Library stack core, December 2013.
The construction crane looms over a gutted Rubenstein Library stack core, December 2013. See our Flickr album of renovation images for more.

The renovation of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, housed in Duke’s original West Campus library building, is the final phase of the Perkins Project, a 15-year-long effort to renovate and re-imagine Duke’s West Campus library complex that started back in 2000. (Read more about the history of the Perkins Project on our renovation website.)

Construction work on the Rubenstein began in late 2012, and the building will officially open to the public on August 24, 2015.

The 1948 library tower under scaffolding, August 2014. See our Flickr gallery of renovation photos for more.
The 1948 library tower under scaffolding, August 2014.

The Rubenstein renovation has transformed one of the university’s oldest and most recognizable buildings into a state-of-the-art research facility where students, faculty, and visitors can engage with the Libraries’ collection of rare and unique scholarly materials.

The research, instruction, storage, and exhibition capabilities of the Rubenstein Library have all been greatly increased. The new library also features state-of-the-art closed stacks with high-tech security and a closely-monitored environment.

Workers re-hang portraits of historic Duke luminaries in the renovated Gothic Reading Room, July 2015.
Workers re-hang portraits of historic Duke luminaries in the renovated Gothic Reading Room, July 2015.

Updates have also extended to the Mary Duke Biddle Room and the Gothic Reading Room. The charm and character of these signature Duke spaces has been preserved, but their finishes, furnishings, lighting, technology infrastructure, and exhibition facilities have all been enhanced.

Finally, the library’s main entrance has been redesigned with new doors, windows, and lighting to give the entire library complex a more unified and welcoming presence on the historic West Quad.

Mark your calendars and join us 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. on September 10!



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Move Diary: Week 3


We’re 1/3 of the way through the move, huzzah! Here’s a look at what week 3 brought.

Books have been getting new labels to show off their new Library of Congress call numbers:

Cataloger Lauren Reno scans books from our History of Medicine Collections. Photo by Rachel Ingold.
Cataloger Lauren Reno scans books from our History of Medicine Collections. Photo by Rachel Ingold.


We’ve been finding lots of beautiful books during the process:

Photo by Kate Collins
Photo by Kate Collins
Photo by Kelly Wooten
Photo by Kelly Wooten
Photo by Kelly Wooten
Photo by Kelly Wooten
Photo by Meghan Lyon
Photo by Meghan Lyon

As well as fun doodles in the margins:

Photo by Amy McDonald

There were some more amusing finds as well:

Photo by Meghan Lyon
Reliving the early 2000s with an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. Photo by Meghan Lyon
Photo by Kelly Wooten
The wrong kind of sports in The Mother’s Encyclopedia, 1942. Photo by Kelly Wooten
good girls and bad girlds
Bad Girl and Good Girl in juxtaposition. Photo by Kelly Wooten.
Photo by Tracy Jackson
True Blue Soda! Photo by Tracy Jackson

Archival collections continued to fill our new shelves:

Collections from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture. Photo by Kelly Wooten.
Photo by Liz Adams
Boxes of University Archives material. Photo by Liz Adams

Our collections weren’t the only thing moving this week. Portraits of Duke presidents and other figures in Duke History moved back to the Gothic Reading Room.

Photo by Amy McDonald
Portrait of Terry Sanford leaving our temporary space for the Gothic. Photo by Amy McDonald
Horace Trumbauer, Campus Architect for East and West campus. Photo by Beth Doyle.
Horace Trumbauer, Campus Architect for East and West campus. Photo by Beth Doyle.
Photo by Val Gillispie
The Duke Family is back in the Gothic Reading Room! Photo by Val Gillispie
Photo by Val Gillispie
Last portrait being hung in the Gothic Reading Room–President Douglas Knight. Photo by Val Gillispie

We also got to see others spaces in our new home come together:

Photo by Amy McDonald
Work area for Research Services Staff. Photo by Amy McDonald
Cute little bench nook. Photo by Amy McDonald.

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Move Diary: Week 1


We made it through week 1! Here are some sights spotted by our staff as we got down to work:

The first truck of books returning home from offsite storage. We brought 9800 print items back this week.
Our old now empty hold shelves. We miss our researchers and can’t wait to see them again in August in our new space.
One of our archivists, spotted through a tunnel of new compact shelving.
Bevy of walkie-talkies. 10-4.
Our move coordinator/book cart whisperer channels Chris Pratt. We’re glad they’re just book trucks and not velociraptors.
A little Robert Frost on the book trucks.
Color coded boxes, ready to move.
No detail is too small as labels were peeled off our new shelving and replaced with stickier ones.
With new super-sticky stickers, we labeled roughly 1000 bays on three different levels in the new space, ensuring every box will have a clearly labeled place to live.
Someone had a little fun with the (admittedly Carolina Blue) protective film on our new elevator.


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(Re)Encapsulating a Lot of Maps

Have you noticed that the most simple-seeming projects always turn out to be more complicated than you think? As part of our preparations to move our collections to our renovated library, we are trying to free up space in the flat files. Our flat files contain broadsides, maps, posters, artwork, etc. Many of these items are large and flat and should be in the flat files. Many are flat but are small enough to fit into standard manuscript boxes or pamphlet binders.  Last November we embarked on a project to help the Rubenstein Library move as many of the smaller maps as possible into enclosures to free up space in the flat files. Sounds easy, right?

First Challenge: To Keep the Old Encapsulation or Not

I am an advocate of NOT encapsulating materials unless it is necessary to facilitate handling. Polyester is expensive, and it can add a lot of weight to the stacks. It can also make handling difficult for patrons as they sift through a stack of slippery encapsulated documents.

Many of these maps didn’t need to be encapsulated. They are in good condition and a folder inside a box would suffice. However, in order to finish the project by the move date, we would need to utilize our student assistants and our volunteer. If we decided to de-encapsulate materials, it would mean a conservator would have to evaluate the condition of each item to determine its disposition.  There simply wasn’t time to do this.

In consultation with Rubenstein staff, we decided the maps would stay encapsulated in their old polyester if possible. We would replace the polyester only if an item didn’t fit its current encapsulation, or if the old polyester was too damaged to keep.

Second Challenge: All That Tape!

Almost all of the maps have been previously encapsulated using double stick tape to adhere the two pieces of polyester together. While this is a common method of encapsulation, it poses one big problem. A document can shift to the edge and become stuck. This poses a particular hazard for brittle materials. Lucky for us, most of our maps were encapsulated with a generous amount of space between the object and the tape.

We decided that we could ultrasonically weld between the object and the tape, trim the tape off, and voila! A retrofitted encapsulation.

Brittle map edge is stuck to the tape.
Brittle map edge is stuck to the taped polyester sheets.
Third Challenge: Size Matters

As we looked through the thirty drawers of materials it became clear that some of the old encapsulations just weren’t working. There were several items that had  encapsulations that were too small. Some large folded items were put still folded into an L-sleeve encapsulation. Handling is awkward, and unfolded these items became too large for either the manuscript boxes or the flat files.

Rubenstein staff decided on two standard manuscript box sizes and two standard pamplet-binder sizes.  Anything that could go into one of these would do so. Any folded item would be unfolded. If an item was too big for a box, it would remain in a folder in a flat file. If it was too big to lay flat in the current flat files, we would wait to encapsulate it until we were in our new space with our new, bigger flat files. There are a few items that are  in too bad of a condition to safely re-encapsulate. These will come to conservation for treatment first.

Maps in new manuscript boxes.
Fourth Challenge: The Weird Stuff

There is a lot of weird stuff in libraries and not everything in the map drawers are maps. As we work our way through the map collection we are setting these oddities aside for curatorial review. Some will end up back in the flat files, some will be the responsibility of Collection Development to deal with.

The Project So Far

To date we have encapsulated 1,865 items.  By our estimates we are about 90% finished, but what is left is some of the oddball items that need special attention by conservation, curators and by technical services. Technical services will also have to update the new locations, which they will do during the reclass project. Did I mention Rubenstein is also doing a huge reclass project during the move? We don’t believe in doing only one huge project at a time, that would be too easy.

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Tableaus of all kinds

tableau 2

Summer is gallivanting into Durham, and with it comes the promise of a new beginning for the Rubenstein, one involving fresh paint, new shelving, and a touch of tenacity. In a month, we’ll begin moving our materials and ourselves into our beautifully renovated home. Some Rubenstein spaces—like the Gothic Reading Room—will remain lovingly preserved, testaments to the memories that came before and to the new scholars who will soon discover them. Others will be similar in name only. I’m looking at you, Rubenstein stacks.

I’ve heard a lot about the pre-renovated Rubenstein stacks during my nearly two years here. The creaky elevators, the nooks, the crannies, the many doorways. These quirks are part of the collective Rubenstein conscious, and they’re spoken of fondly, frequently.


And while we’re sad to lose those charms, we’ve also been granted an opportunity to refine systems, to make materials more visible and easy to locate. We’ll no longer have a maze of classification schemes but one: Library of Congress. All of our print materials will be clustered by size: double elephants will chill next to double elephants; folios next to folios; mini materials next to mini. This is all great news for those of us lacking inner compasses. It also brings us to a logical question: how do we go about mapping locations for thousands of materials in this brave new world?


Easy! We turn to Tableau, a nifty data visualization service the lovely folks at Data Visualization introduced to us. Tableau allows subscribers to turn data into graphic representations that move far beyond bar graphs and pie charts—although it does have options for those as well.

Because we’re moving to a standard classification scheme, we now have more ways than ever to visualize our collections: we can look at overarching trends using the main classes of LC (e.g., “P” for Language and Literature or, “N” for Fine Arts); we can also get more granular than that. Within LC, there are subclasses that further delineate topics. PR—English Literature—is a subclass of Language and Literature, as is NA—Architecture—for Fine Arts. We can even delve deeper than that, looking at how many items are within a specific range of class numbers (e.g., PR1000-PR1100). With Tableau, we can then turn these data points into visual c(l)ues:

Click through to see the tableau in its full-sized beauty


tableau 2
Another visualization representing the same data.

This visualization breaks out our print holdings first by size designation (12mo = duodecimo; 8vo = octavo; 4to = quarto), then by subclass. Looking at this, we know that we have substantial chunks of duodecimos classed in “B”—Philosophy, Psychology, Religion.  We can also see that there are relatively fewer quartos and folios classed in Philosophy, Psychology, Religion. By doing this legwork, we know that we should probably leave extra space in the duodecimo section for materials classed “B.” Conversely, we also know that we won’t need to leave quite as much room in the folio areas for materials classed similarly.

Using a data visualization service has allowed us to be more accurate, more efficient, in our planning today so we won’t have to do as much shifting in the future. (Sorry wonderful colleagues! I can’t promise that we’ll never do shifting.) My own hope is that by doing this methodical (and methodological!) plotting today, the new stacks will be spoken of with the same fondness as the old stacks—albeit with less reverence toward crannies.

Anxiously awaiting our renovated space? It’s coming! From July 1st-August 23rd, the Rubenstein will be closed as we move into our permanent home. On August 24th, we’ll reopen to one and all.

Thanks to Mark Zupan and the Duke Libraries Renovation Flicker page for the excellent pictures; thanks also to Data Visualization for showing us its cool offerings!

rube on the move

Post contributed by Liz Adams, Collections Move Coordinator

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