Tag 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. 


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.

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.

Renovation Round-Up

It has been a busy summer here at Rubenstein Renovation HQ. With the help of the entire Rubenstein staff, we have prepared over 50,000 rare books for the move! These are books that have been reviewed and loaded into acid-free cardboard trays for safe transport to and storage at the Library Service Center.

We have made progress on the archival and manuscript collections front as well, and these collections are now almost 100% ready to move to our swing space and the LSC. Below, please find some highlights of some of the work being done:

  • Oversize Materials: 670 linear feet of oversize materials and flat files have been reviewed and re-packaged for long term storage.

    Archivists Meghan Lyon and Mary Samouelian prepare oversize folders for the move.
  • Ledger-mania: Our Conservation Lab has been working wonders on our extensive collection of ledgers. The bulk of this work has been completed. Our ledgers have never looked better! Read more about the ledgers project on the preservation department’s blog Preservation Underground.
  • Extra Extra!The Rubenstein Newspaper collection is getting enhanced catalog records, better housing and some much needed TLC in preparation for its journey and new life over at the LSC. This has been a multi-team undertaking led by the Rubenstein Print Materials Coordinator, her holdings management team, our colleagues at Perkins Technical Services, and of course the Perkins conservation team.

    Newspapers in new boxes, ready fto ship to the LSC
    Newspapers in new boxes, ready to ship to the LSC
  • Manuscript Box Stabilization: Many of our manuscript collections are housed in flat boxes. To keep things from needlessly shifting during transport we have padded boxes with what will forever be affectionately referred to as “burritos.” These are pieces of folder stock rolled into tubes and wrapped in tissue paper so they stay rolled. Here are the burritos in action.

    Flat manuscript box, padded and ready to move.
  • A new Rubenstein Renovation website is in the works! Stay tuned for an announcement about this site, it will be a one-stop shop for all your renovation news needs.

What’s Next?

We are beginning the home stretch of our move preparation efforts. Materials are starting to be shipped over to the Library Service Center in small but consistent batches now that the Center’s 3rd module is nearly online.

The bulk of our materials will be moving in January and early February 2013. This will be a very busy time at the Rubenstein, so if you are planning on visiting us during this time, please contact us so we can plan ahead for your visit. Don’t forget that the reading room will actually be closed December 17, 2012 – January 6, 2013 so we can move the reading room and our offices over to our temporary location on the 3rd floor of Perkins library. We look forward to welcoming you to swing space on January 7, 2013!

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

Construction Begins on the Temporary Rubenstein Library

Over the past few months, Perkins staff has been shifting books out of the 3rd floor of the library to make room for the Rubenstein Library to have a home away from home during the renovation. We will be opening our reading room on the 3rd floor of Perkins on January 7, 2013. This month, construction begins in earnest. When we go check on the space, we even have to bring hard hats and safety glasses — this is kind of a thrill for some of us! (Okay, maybe just me.)

The 3rd floor of Perkins, now a construction zone for the Rubenstein swing space.

Our temporary home will house our reading room as well as work spaces for our Research Services, Collection Development, and University Archives staff.  We will also to be able to keep a portion of our collections onsite during the renovation.

The future temporary home of the Rubenstein Library Reading Room.
Library bookshelves have been re-arranged to safely hold our large folios.

As our regular readers know, moving out of our current space is no easy task.  In addition to prepping the collections for the move, we also have to execute a safe and secure move in a short period of time with minimal impact on our researchers. We know we cannot do this without the help of professional movers, so we have been talking with and reviewing bids from various moving companies.

Back in 1969 when the library addition we now know as Perkins Library opened, the books were moved by fraternity brothers around campus. Some days I wish our move would be that simple. Although, after looking at the picture below of the 1969 move (from the Duke University Archives), I’m happy we will have the professionals involved.

Moving Day for Perkins Library books, 1969.

For more photographs of the Rubenstein renovation, visit the Library’s Flickr page.

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

Rubenstein Move Supplies

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Move and Obsess About Book Trucks.

When I started as Collections Move Coordinator, I knew it would be a challenging task involving inventories, spreadsheets, and endless logistics, as well as coordinating the work of students, colleagues, and staff in other departments. What I had not counted on was the number of supplies we would need to gather to complete the move. I spent my first two months on the job compiling opinions on carts, boxes, barcode scanners, shipping bins, and even post-it note color preferences (this was a particularly long discussion and search). I have become particularly obsessed with carts. There are so many different designs — so many ways to get your rare and unique materials from here to there and back again. But of course it takes more than just carts to move the Rubenstein Library. Below, please find a gallery of some of my favorite move supplies.

Code Name: “The Biscuit.” (Seriously, that’s what the manufacturer calls it.)

This height-adjustable table is truly the caddy of carts.  It is ideal for reviewing collections in the stacks:  narrow enough to fit between ranges of material and big enough to fit a laptop, barcode scanner, dust mask and measuring tape (I carry these with me at all times).  The height-adjustable feature is amazing and keeps my colleagues and me from getting sore necks as a result of bending over our laptops.

Code Name:  “Bubbles.”

It’s bubble wrap, people: lots and lots of bubble wrap.

Code Name:  “Ol’ Reliable.”

These sturdy wooden carts are the friends of everyone in the library, and we treat them sort of like cattle. Each department brands them, protects them fiercely, and works hard to rustle them up when one gets separated from the herd.  Also, it’s fun to think about librarians and archivists as cowboys and girls on the frontier, wrangling up books and historical materials.

Code Name: “Fuchsia.”

Stacks prepped to moveWhen a manuscript box has been checked and is ready to move, we put a pink post-it note on it. This way everyone easily knows what collections have already been prepped and which need work. Plus, who doesn’t love a little extra color in the stacks!



Post contributed by Molly Bragg, Collections Move Coordinator.