We realized we needed some sort of large cart to better move folders from the stacks to the reading room when we expanded our flat file storage to include super-oversized file drawers. After some investigation we settled on the “U-boat.” This custom cart was first introduced to me by Michele Hamill, Paper and Photograph Conservator in the Digitization and Conservation Services Department at Cornell University Library.
The cool thing about its design is the three-tiered storage system. The base is tall enough for a standard archival records box, the middle has a concave section to transport large folders, and the top is a large flat space to place oversize flat boxes. The best part? The top is removable! Once I saw it, I wanted it.
Today was the first opportunity for Conservation to really put the U-boat to use in moving oversize materials. We had to move three super-oversized folders from the lab to the third floor stacks. These folders are about 75 inches long and 50 inches wide, so we brought down the U-boat to transport them.
Once the folders were on the cart, we placed a large tube in the middle to stabilize the contents and keep the folders from slipping or folding over. Three of us escorted the cart upstairs to the stacks. Two people steered while one cleared the way and opened doors.
The U-boat was custom made for us by G.S. Manufacturing . It arrived fully assembled and ready to go. While this is the first time I’ve used the U-boat, I often see it in use in the stacks for oversized flat boxes. Is it wrong to fall in love with a cart? Because I believe I have.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As many readers know, we lost our photo documentation room in November 2013 to a renovation-related flood. We got it back for a brief time on December 15, 2014 only to lose it again to another renovation issue on January on January 29, 2015. Today we got it back, and this time for good (everyone knock on wood). It is such a gift to not have our dirty room doubling as a photo doc room as well. Here’s the before:
Here is the dirty room today.
And here is the photo doc room.
We still have to put the photo doc set-up back in place, but what a great present to get this room back today!
While we are out of the lab we have been staying busy with projects that do not require access to water, large equipment, and other tools and supplies that we normally use. At first it felt that we had to stretch to find projects to work on. As it turns out, we have more than enough to keep us, our students and volunteer busy, including some large-scale projects.
We are working on surveying the locked stacks in the Music Library. Rachel and Beth have created and tested the survey tool, and they are now in the midst of collecting item-level condition data. At the end of this project we will write the report and use the data to address some issues in this collection. We already know there is a lot of boxing needs, and there are a fair amount of brittle pamphlets that we need to discuss with the Music Librarian.
We started a re-encapsulation project in the Rubenstein Library map collection. In the past, these maps were encapsulated using the double-stick-tape method. The margins are much bigger than they need to be because they wanted to be sure the maps didn’t get accidentally taped into the polyester. While the impulse was a good one, many of the maps have shifted in their packets and are stuck to the tape. In addition, the library needs to make room in the flat files for items that can’t fit in standard manuscript boxes. Since we are moving into the new space in the fall of 2015, now is the time to address these issues.
We moved the polyester ultrasonic welder to a consultation room in Rubenstein Library to be closer to the maps. We are welding inside the tape, trimming the tape off, and putting the maps into large, flat manuscript boxes. Our students and volunteers have been doing most of this work with support from Rachel and Beth. There are an estimated 1,200 maps in these cabinets. This project will continue through the spring of 2015.
Erin has been working on preparing the next set of Duke Chronicles for digitization. The next set are from the 1940’s-50’s and have been bound together. The paper is fairly brittle, but remains flexible. Erin is going through each volume to stabilize any large tears. It’s also a time to find any missing volumes or pages and alert the digitization team.
Before the move, Tedd prepared several text blocks to the point of casing-in. He’s been working through these as well as making four-flap boxes for the Rubenstein Library.
It’s been a challenge to work in this space, but we are finding ways to be productive. I am finding that being more visible is a good thing for Conservation. We are seeing and talking to colleagues we normally wouldn’t see in the basement. That said, we are all looking forward to getting back to the lab. We will return next week if the construction is on schedule.
This week we moved out of the lab so that the construction crew could proceed with the Rubenstein Renovation Project. They need to remove our ceiling, take out old HVAC ducts and water pipes, and install new ducts and pipes. We have known for about a year that we would have to move out. The serious “down to brass tacks” planning started about five or six months ago.
Our temporary space is a conference room and not designed to be a conservation lab. The challenge for our planning was to stay productive while working in a space about a third the size of the lab that has no water, sink, fume hood or the other equipment we have come to rely on. We also needed to figure out where and how to store our large equipment; negotiate storage space for library materials that are awaiting treatment; collaborate with our colleagues to adjust workflows; and physically move important files and materials that we wanted to move ourselves.
The plan involved moving some materials to locked stacks, move as much large equipment and supplies as could fit into our dirty room and computer nook, moving supplies and equipment to our new room, and moving the remaining furniture to off site storage. It’s a good thing we specialize in organized workflows.
Moving Day came this past Monday, and continued through lunchtime on Tuesday. Most of the day went off without a hitch, and the small glitches that did occur were quickly remedied. It was an all-hands-on-deck situation with both planned and on-the-spot move assignments being made. Everyone worked together to ensure the safe move of all of our stuff, and what a lot of stuff it was.
There are so many people to thank that helped us in our move. Staff from the library helped by making space for us to store materials, by moving meetings to other rooms, by coordinating movers, etc. We had three people from Rubenstein Library come and help us pack when we needed extra hands. The Lock Shop even came over to take the door off the hinges so we could get the board shear through the door. Everyone we asked seemed more than happy and willing to help us in our time of need. I am so thankful that we work with such amazing and helpful colleagues.
Our Temporary Lab
Our new space is small, but our planning has paid off. We have five benches for all the staff, students and our volunteer to share. We moved the large board shear, a couple of shelving units, secure storage units, and several book trucks into the space. We also made sure to have room to move around and maneuver trucks to benches. The best part of the new space is that we have windows! Not since our original lab space have we been able to see the outside world during work hours. We will enjoy every minute of those, especially if this beautiful weather continues.
What We Are Learning
While it is difficult and stressful to move, we are learning there are other benefits besides the windows. First, moving gave us an opportunity to clean out stuff we no longer use or want. Everyone needs a good clearing-out now and then to create space and reduce clutter.
Now that we are in our temporary space, more people are becoming aware of Conservation because we are in a much more public space. We are interacting with library staff that we would normally not have a chance to talk to since we are more visible. Additionally, several people have stopped by to see our space. We are thinking of hosting a pop-up open house next week just for fun since so many people are curious about who just moved into Room 118.
We are undergoing an epic boxing day…boxing the entire lab to move temporarily off site. Construction work needs to be done in our ceiling, which means we need to move out to make way. We are packing up the entire lab and moving some of it to temporary space, some will go into storage. If all goes well, we will be back into the lab in mid-December. Wish us luck!
It’s been a while since we talked about the renovation project, mostly because of this. But yesterday I was working on a short video to explain how to make a “burrito” and was reflecting on why and how these came to be.
Our renovation project came at us fast due to a major gift that allowed us to accelerate the renovation schedule. We had just over a year to plan and move the special collections stacks to make way for demolition. That is not a lot of time to move an entire library of rare, valuable and decidedly fragile materials.
The library approached us with a problem. Many of the older flat archival boxes were too large for their contents. Staff were concerned that moving these off site would cause damage when the objects shifted around inside the boxes. Could we come up with a low cost, low tech, fast, anyone-can-do-it solution?
We sat down as a lab to brainstorm ideas. There was no way to pay for and manufacture hundreds of corrugated-board spacers for all of the boxes we needed to move off site. After a lot of thought, we developed “the burrito.”
These are made of buffered 10-point folder stock and tissue paper. They are non-adhesive, easy to make, fast and just about anyone could make them. We pre-cut the folder stock to the standard box sizes and trained the Rubenstein staff to make the burritos.
These are meant to be a temporary solution. However, I’ve seen some of these boxes come back and I have to say they are working pretty well. They aren’t as sturdy as a corrugated spacer, and some of them aren’t quite the right size for the space they were meant to fill, but for the most part they are doing what they were designed to do. I think it is a solution that works, and could be a good one for small institutions and organizations who may not have a lot of resources, or for anyone faced with a mountain of boxes that need spacers in a hurry.
What do you think? Have you come up with a solution like this that you want to share?