Category Archives: Renovation

Our new home: A sneak peek

It’s confession time: I started working at the Rubenstein after we moved onto the 3rd floor of Perkins. This means that I never gazed up at the ceiling archway of the Gothic Reading Room, and I never wandered our old stacks, traveling the well-trod paths—literally and figuratively– of those librarians who came before me. Our impermanent home is the only one I’ve known. And in truth, I’ve always had a hard time imagining what came before and what comes after. Architectural plans, while incredibly helpful, don’t always capture grand staircases and hidden crannies.

Rare Book Room
Rare Book Room



Luckily for all of us, Kat Stefko, the head of Rubenstein Technical Services, and I recently returned to our once and future home. We put on our fanciest construction gear and walked around the floors, all the while marveling at the differences in scale between our temporary location and our new one. Check out the maps cabinets! They are the very definition of bright young things.

maps cabinets (sideways!)



With a handy ruler, we were also able to measure the shelf clearance for our new manuscript shelving units. I’m happy to report that our larger manuscript boxes will fit safely and snuggly on each shelf. Can you imagine these filled with boxes?


And just because I mentioned the scale earlier, look at how tall these units actually are! I’m not a small person, but these are the equivalent of two of me. (Don’t worry, fellow staff members and curious readers: our ladders will be sturdy and strong.)

Although we at the Rubenstein love a good field trip, we didn’t tour the stacks just to tour the stacks. We wanted to gain a better sense of how to move our materials from our current abode to our new one. As July 1st swirls closer, we need a solid moving plan, one that takes into account tight turns and elevators, lines of visibility and door widths. Our spaces aren’t quite complete, but we found it incredibly helpful to walk the pathways we’ll take in July, to imagine materials moving at fast clips down hallways and into elevators. It was all enormously satisfying: we know that we can make this move happen, and we’re well on our way to figuring out how to do it.

rube on the move

Post contributed by Liz Adams, Rubenstein Move Coordinator. 


We’re on the Move!


While we at the Rubenstein were unable to commemorate the New Year with a ball (or perhaps pickle?) drop, we do have a lot to be excited for in this newest of years. After a stint on the third floor of Perkins, we’re finally making the trek to our permanent location—a location that while physically close, has occasionally felt as though it were light years away. In July 2015, the staff and collections of the Rubenstein will move (ourselves) home.

Perhaps because we conquered a move once before, we’re feeling ambitious, even a little daring. In addition to moving nearly 18,000 linear feet of onsite material (plus offsite material!), we’re also reclassifying our entire print holdings into a single, unified system: the Library of Congress classification. No longer will we have 120+ different call number systems, ranging from Riess C246I to E F#1275. Now, all our call numbers will follow the same alphanumeric system, one that is used by the larger Duke Libraries system. Here’s how the two call numbers above might be classed in the future:

calll numbers

A brief lesson about Library of Congress classification: those lines of alphanumeric text all have specific meanings outlined the Library of Congress classification schedules and its associated texts. The first lines of letters and numbers (e.g., HV6533) always refer to the subject of the work. In case you were wondering, HV refers to the subject “Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology.” The subsequent lines are then used to provide additional clarity, narrowing in on topics, geographic locations, authors, title, and even formats. The LC classification thus packs a huge amount of information into a scant amount of space.

So how will this help the Rubenstein (and you)? By moving to a single system, we’re making our collections more browsable, both for staff and for researchers. Since every call number has a subject associated with it, we can conduct both granular and broad searches in our catalog (and if you’re staff, in the stacks). We’re also making it easier for our staff to pinpoint the locations of items. With 120+ call numbers, there are lots of pockets in the stacks where an item might live. Library of Congress will not only unify our call number system but will also create stronger shelving practices. There will be a place for everything, and everything in its place.

Some of these advantages won’t be felt until we move into our new space and finish out the reclassification project. Others are already making their presence known. Because our call numbers are now tied to specific subjects, we can use our current data to pinpoint collection strengths, weaknesses, and gaps. We’ve been able to develop some very cool data visualization:

data visualization

While we knew (and probably could have guessed) that a substantial proportion of our print work falls into Language and Literature, other topics are a little more surprising. Who knew we had works about general Agriculture (S), Plant Culture (SB), and Animal Culture (SF)?  I certainly didn’t, but now that I know, I might just be tempted to brush up on my knowledge of farm life.

There’s still a lot to do, but we’re making steady progress in our reclassification project and our many other move preparation projects.  And we’re very happy to say the Rubenstein Library is on the move!

rube on the move

A special thanks to Noah Huffman and Angela Zoss in Data Visualization for creating the incredible visualization featured in this blog post. It’s a real beauty.

 Post contributed by Liz Adams, Collections Move Coordinator at the Rubenstein. 


Rubenstein Library Construction: Beautiful Wreckage

Construction on the new Rubenstein Library is in full swing. Library staff and patrons have no doubt observed the temporary walls around the library building, seen the giant crane in the loading dock, and heard the dulcet tones of demolition throughout the Perkins stacks.

Rubenstein and Duke University Library staff had the opportunity to take a fascinating tour of the construction in progress in recent weeks. Here are some highlights.

looking_at_cageFirst off we got to wear official vests, hard hats and protective glasses – safety first! Above our touring librarians  and archivists are pictured in the old Rubenstein reading room, looking into the a section of the 1948 closed stacks previously referred to as the “cage.”

gothic_reading_roomThe renovation of the Gothic Reading Room has also started, and demolition crews are removing non-original features of the room. Please note that both the character of the room and its distinctive architectural elements will be retained as we modernize the building. The windows and light fixtures will be restored as close to their original look as possible, but the shelving will be replaced. We toured the entire construction site with Will Dunlop from EHG Demolition. Will commented that the Gothic Reading Room is “one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever been called upon to wreck.”


ivy_28wallThe demolition process has revealed the old exterior wall of the 1928 building. Originally, the Gothic Reading room had windows on both sides of the room. When the 1948 addition was built, one side of windows were filled and the exterior wall was covered by the expansion project. In the first picture above we see the old exterior wall, and the outline of decorative stone elements that were removed. The next image shows the remains of ivy vines that must have been growing on the exterior wall when it was covered around 1948.

RL_2nd_floor_officesThe Rubenstein Library director and collection development offices, formally on the 2nd floor of Perkins outside of the Gothic Reading room, have been completely demolished. Here you see the gutted space and the bracing that has been added to protect the building’s structure during renovation.

room_201The room formerly known as Perkins 201 was located right across from the Breedlove Room. Our Technical Services Department worked there before moving to Smith Warehouse several years ago. As you can see in the picture, the windows have been removed and boarded up. This is also where debris is being taken and pitched to dumpsters in the loading dock.

loading_dockOut on the loading dock you can see where a chute (the black tube looking thing coming out of the top window) has been constructed to funnel debris from the demolition area (and Room 201) into dumpsters.

Post contributed by Molly Bragg, Collections Move Coordinator.

Spot the Difference?

Recognize this place?

Old Reading Room during Renovation


Maybe if it had tables full of researchers and some lovely teal carpeting?

Reading Room Pre-Renovation


That’s right, it’s our old reading room! As you can see it has undergone quite a change since renovation began earlier this summer.  Not only is that teal carpeting gone, but steel bracing has been installed for extra structural support. Check out theRubenstein Library Renovation blog for more pictures and updates on our ongoing renovation.

Faux Duke Stone

Last week, we watched “Duke Stone” panels going up on the construction fence surrounding the Rubenstein Library and the West Campus Union.  So we thought we’d take a few moments to write about the real Duke Stone!

Duke Stone panels being applied. Photo by Aaron Welborn.
Duke Stone panels being applied. Photo by Aaron Welborn.

Did you know that Duke Stone comes from a quarry in Hillsborough, North Carolina, just about 10 miles away from campus?  Or that there are 24 distinct colors in the stone: 7 primary colors with 17 distinct variants of the primary colors?  Or that, before choosing the Hillsborough stone, there were several other stone contenders?

Before the Hillsborough stone was chosen to construct West Campus, and before it was known simply as “Duke Stone,” the architects, designers, builders, and James B. Duke himself looked at many different stone samples.  They even constructed test walls of stone from other quarries on the East Coast to determine which one they liked the best.  Here’s one of the test walls constructed during that phase:

Test Wall on East Campus

And in this October 15, 1925 photo of construction on East Campus, the test walls are visible off in the distance.

An arrow points out the location of the test walls on East Campus.

It’s safe to say that we all know and love Duke Stone today—so much so that the panels are going up on the construction wall so that we don’t have to be without the look of it for too long.  Next time you’re on campus, see how many primary and variant colors you can find in the stone. Let us know how you do!

Post contributed by Maureen McCormick Harlow, 175th Anniversary Intern for the Duke University Archives.

What’s that sound?

Workers are removing shelving and hazardous building materials from the rear entrance of Rubenstein Library.
Workers are removing shelving and hazardous building materials from the rear entrance of Rubenstein Library.


Visitors to the Rubenstein Library may notice things are a little noisy in the library as renovation work begins. In the next few weeks interior demolition of our former space will continue and  the tower crane for the renovation project will be installed.   Since we’re on the other side of the building now, it shouldn’t be too loud in our reading room, but, as always, we’ll have foam earplugs available for researchers.  Further details and updates are available on the Rubenstein Library Renovation blog.

The Great Art Move, or, How Few Can Really Be More

This week marked the final chapter of the Rubenstein Library relocation project of 2013, when the Library’s portrait collection was relocated from the Gothic Reading Room to the Rubenstein Library’s temporary space on the third floor of Perkins.   It was a poignant and, at moments, spirited end to a process that began many months ago.


The portrait collection has been with the Gothic since the very beginning. Upon the library’s opening in 1930, the well-known artist Douglas Chandor was commissioned to paint portraits of The Duke Endowment trustees, Mary Duke Biddle and Nanaline Duke, and the architect and builder of the campus, Horace Trumbauer. These portraits were completed between 1930 and 1932 and hung in the Gothic, then functioning as the library’s general reference room.  Over the years, portraits of the University’s founders and presidents were added, along with those of other notable figures in the University’s history.  By the time of our move, 32 auspicious figures awaited the careful attention of the professional art handlers we brought in for this assignment.

Because of the scale of the room, scaffolding was needed to even reach the pictures.  After that came rebacking the canvases, vacuuming the gilded frames, and replacing the hanging hardware.  Finally, the portraits were ready for their voyage across the library and to their new spots, all purposefully selected to allow for their safe storage during the time of the Gothic’s renovation. 

While most of them are now in staff-only spaces, visitors who wish to see a particular portrait can do so by contacting the Rubenstein Library to make an appointment. Portraits of Washington, James B., and Benjamin N. Duke are hanging outside the Rubenstein classroom, and are viewable during regular Rubenstein hours without an appointment.


One painting, however, did not go so quietly to storage—a life-size, full-body portrait of President Few. It took scaffolding, ladders, and five people to remove him from his long-time rest, and once on the ground it became immediately clear that the portrait is nearly a half foot taller than the ceilings on the third floor of Perkins, where he was headed.  An alternative spot was needed and quick!  Thanks to the University Librarian, a suitable location was soon found.  President Few now greets guests on the main floor of the Library, immediately behind the Perkins reference desk.  It is perhaps fitting that the visage of the man who presided over the Gothic Room’s opening in 1930 was the last and most dramatic to take his leave from this room.

Post contributed by Kat Stefko, Head of Technical Services, Rubenstein Library.

Goodnight, Stacks

Well, it’s finally happened.  The 2,065 newspaper boxes and volumes and 8,526 pamphlets, books, and ledgers that could not move in January or February have finally been sent to the LSC. We also moved our framed art collection from the stacks to our swing space, where we have an ingenious new storage solution (stay tuned for further blog coverage on our art move). Now all of that work is complete, and with the exception of books and portraits in the Gothic Reading Room, our collections have officially moved out of the old stacks space.


Our last day in the 1928 stacks was Friday, April 26. We checked under the 1928 elevator and took one last look at every shelf on our 8 labyrinth-like levels to make sure we left nothing behind. And so now we say good-bye. While cleaning up the last of the collections I found this appropriate bit of graffiti on the stack walls. What a lovely way to bid our old stacks farewell. Goodnight 1928 stacks!

Post contributed by Molly Bragg, Collections Move Coordinator in Rubenstein Technical Services.

The Move by the Numbers

After a month of intensive activity, the largest and most complicated phase of the Rubenstein Library move wrapped up, and we bid farewell to William B. Meyer, our wonderful library movers, on Feb 12.  In the 24 days that these 15 movers were onsite they relocated more than 30,000 linear feet of rare books, manuscript collections, university archives, pamphlets, and other material to both our temporary library and the Library Service Center.

Map Cases
Our map cabinets in their new home

We are excited to report that we have a considerable amount of our collection up in our new home on the 3rd floor of Perkins:

  • 17,600 linear feet of books, manuscripts, university archives and other collections
  • 39 map cabinets
  • 4-volume, double-elephant edition of Audubon

The movers transported 836 large blue trucks of material to our offsite Library Service Center!

  • The team at LSC has already ingested 148,727 items!  Thank you LSC team!!

Please note that due to the HUGE amount of material sent to LSC, some items are still being processed into their system.  As such, it may take longer than usual for some materials to be pulled..   Researchers are encouraged to contact the Rubenstein Library to confirm that their collections have arrived before coming to the reading room.  Please call the Rubenstein Library at 919.660.5822 or send us a message. Thank you to all our patrons, researchers, colleagues, friends and fans for their continued patience and support as we finalize the Rubenstein Library move!

But that’s not all!

Although one phase of the move is complete, there is still plenty of work and moving to be done between now and the start of the Rubenstein Library Renovation.  We are still prepping our newspaper collection for transport to LSC, and we still need to move the art collection, including the portraits in the Gothic Reading Room.  Stay tuned for more updates as we complete these projects.

Last but not least, you can always relive the exciting events from the last 6 weeks anytime on our blog:


Post contributed by Molly Bragg, Collection Move Coordinator.



Game Day

The big game — UNC vs. Duke — may be tonight at Cameron, but we’ve been preparing for weeks with our school-colored Big Blues. Normally, we use these carts to transport library materials around the Triangle. Lately, these carts have been helping us get Rubenstein collections to the LSC as quickly as possible.

Rival library trucks battling it out during the move.
Rival library trucks battling it out during the move.

Although our move is wrapping up this week, we would like to remind researchers that materials may still be in transit and that delays in retrieving our collections may continue for the next few weeks as we ingest everything into the LSC. Please continue to contact Research Services as early as possible if you are planning a research visit to the Rubenstein Library so that we can be sure to have what you need on hand when you arrive.