University libraries prepare for future

By Marcia Harris

The University library system is taking steps to maintain its status as one of the top three university libraries in the country. In the late 1990’s, library space had reached capacity, and administrators decided it was time to begin planning for the future. The Conservation Unit, Preservation Unit and Oak Street facility have played a major role in reshaping the campus library system.

The Preservation and Conservation Units work together to maintain and improve the condition of existing library materials. The Oak Street facility is where older books are shipped for later use. It houses a vault that boasts the most sophisticated HVAC system on campus, storing thousands of books at a steady 50 degree temperature and preventing further deterioration. Library Operations Assistant John Andrick has been working on the project for several years and currently works at the Oak Street site.

“In the late 1990’s, we were having trouble finding space for all of the books in our library system. According to the American Library Association, shelves should only be 60 percent full, but we had some that reached 90 percent. In some cases they actually reached 110 percent to 115 percent, in which some books had to be placed on the floor,” Andrick said. He added that the project has been moving at a good pace.

“In January 2004 we accessioned 111,000 volumes, and that October we moved them all here to Oak Street in three days,” Andrick said.

Mike Soule, a library technical assistant at Oak Street,

anticipates the project will continue for some time.

“Right now we have books coming from all different departmental libraries on campus. It will probably be ongoing forever,” Soule said.

The University is second only to Harvard in their state-of-the-art high density shelving system at Oak Street. The shelves are so high that a forklift must be used to reach the top rows.

Cloteria Easterling of the Library Conservation Unit at the Main Library said the University library system is one of a kind and the changes will serve to benefit patrons even more.

“Our system is unique because it isn’t centralized. We have a library in just about every building on campus. Every department has its own specialized collection and we operate on a more individualized level. Our librarians are very knowledgeable in their fields and often work closely with instructors to use resources like E-Reserves on the web. We also have a vast array of materials,” Easterling said.

Easterling added that the library does its best to keeps books for future generations, pointing out some that date back to the mid nineteenth century. The conservation project has maintained a steady pace this summer, transporting 12,000 books a day to Oak Street at one point. As the library system continues to expand, there are plans to add another storage vault next to the current facility.