Tag Archives: books

‘Tis the Season: Gifts to the Rubenstein Library, Day One

OBrienDJTo celebrate the holiday season this week, we’re highlighting a few of the many wonderful books that the Rubenstein Library has received as gifts over the past year.  We are truly grateful for the generosity of our donors.  A hearty “Happy holidays” and thanks and to all of those who have contributed to making 2013 a wonderful year for the Rubenstein Library!

A donation from Duke Professor of French Studies Helen Solterer features rare and iconic works of Irish and American literature.  These volumes came from the library of Elizabeth Solterer, whose father, Constantine Curran, was a friend of James Joyce, W. B. Yeats, and other important figures in twentieth-century Irish literature.

The donation includes a very rare first edition, first printing of At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien (the pseudonym of Brian O’Nolan).  The book’s publication was poorly timed, appearing a few months before Great Britain declared war on Germany in 1939.  Only 240 or so copies were sold before most of the unsold stock was destroyed in a London bombing raid by the German Luftwaffe in 1940.  Its reputation as a groundbreaking and hilarious work of comedic metafiction has grown from a small cult following, and it now features regularly in lists of best English-language novels and novels of the twentieth century.  Copies of the edition printed before World War II are exceptionally rare, especially in the original dust jacket, present on the copy now at the Rubenstein Library.

Another highlight of the donation is a 1934 edition of the Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats featuring two handwritten lines of his poem “Into the Twilight” and his signature, dated to December 1935.

YeatsInscriptionOther books in the donation include signed works by Robert Frost and Henry James.  We thank Prof. Solterer for this marvelous donation!

So, how do you move over 150,000 rare books?

The Rubenstein Renovation team has been spending a lot of time thinking about, planning for, and generally fretting over how we are going to move portions of our priceless collection of rare books to the Library Service Center (LSC) in preparation for the renovation. Right now we are estimating that between 150,000 and 200,000 print items will be sent to LSC.  Books at the LSC are stored in book trays, which are made of cardboard and resemble a box that is open on two sides.  We will be taking some of our books into our new enabling space as well, but these will not be packed into trays.

In late 2011, we decided that we would load the books into book trays ourselves for two key reasons. First, loading the books ourselves will make processing the books into the LSC a much faster process, because our staff at LSC will not have to load the books.  This means the books will be available to the public sooner. Secondly, we believe it will be safer for the books to travel off campus already loaded into trays as opposed to traveling on rolling book trucks.

Empty book trays in various stages of assembly.
Empty book trays in various stages of assembly.

This whole project was a very abstract plan floating out on the move horizon until the last few weeks, when we have started traying books in earnest. First, we had to find a place to store hundreds (eventually thousands) of flat and assembled book trays in the library. Second, loading books into trays is not nearly as simple as it sounds. The trays come in 5 sizes and each size has a high and low sub-size to account for book height. It is essential to match the books to the correct tray size for safe storage (books of varying sizes should not be loaded into the same tray). However there are many nuances to this process. For example, some of our books fit one size in width, but another in height and so on and so forth. Additionally the trays need to be full, but not over or under filled.

Measuring template to help us figure out what size tray is best for each book.
LSC measuring block, to help us figure out what tray size is best for each book.

There are also a number of our books have been placed in Tyvek envelopes by our conservation team for safe keeping.  As these books are trayed, we have to transfer call numbers and barcodes from the book flags to the envelope.  Finally, we are also tracking the barcodes of each volume and tray for record keeping and easy retrieval after the move.  All in all, this is a very involved process.

Books that are trayed and ready to move.
Books that are trayed and ready to move.

Currently the books are not scheduled to move to LSC until next winter, but we are starting now because as you can guess, book traying can be a time consuming process. Unfortunately, the downside of being so pro-active is that it will take us longer to retrieve our books when patrons request them. We do have strategies in place to minimize retrieval time, and we are extremely thankful for our patrons’ patience. This is a lot of work for everyone in the Rubenstein, but we believe this is the best way to move our books. The end result will be a collection that is safe, ready to move, and quite impressive-looking as well! For more pictures of the Rubenstein move, check out our Rubenstein Renovation set on Flickr.

Post contributed by Molly Bragg, Collections Move Coordinator.


Renovation Prep: Fascinating Finds in the Stacks

My part in the preparation for the Rubenstein’s upcoming renovation is to assist in making sure that all of our beloved materials have accurate records before the move. Imagine when you have moved to a new house or dorm room and realized you just can’t find that book from that library that’s overdue. Now multiply that scenario by thousands of volumes and the importance of our task becomes clear!

Rows of books checked by the Holdings Mgmt Team
Rows of books checked by the Holdings Management Team

Our Holdings Management Team members are going through the stacks systematically, checking records and barcodes on periodicals, reference items, pamphlets, and many, many sets of books. Out of the 13,000 volumes I personally have checked, over 2,000 needed to be fixed in some way. Our way of keeping track of various interdepartmental progress? Multi-colored post-it notes line the ends of shelf rows (ours are blue).

Roald Dahl's signature inside one of our books
Roald Dahl's signature inside one of our books

It is always interesting to open a book and see the owner’s signature or personal bookplate. Today, I found a Roald Dahl book that was signed by the author in 1988. Once, I found a book on proper housekeeping that was signed to a friend on my birthday (except 200 years before I was born).  I’m excited for the next 13,000 volumes!

Cullen Cornett is a Holdings Management Assistant in the Rubenstein Technical Services Dept.