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(Peg Skorpinski photo)

How do you move a rare-books collection?
Very, very carefully — with a lot of planning, carts, padding, and clipboards

 Slide show : How do you move a rare-books collection?

| 25 August 2005

The Bancroft Library, thought of by many as a repository of materials relating primarily to Western Americana, is home to a surprising range of rare and valuable resources, including papyrus fragments dating back to 300 B.C., medieval manuscripts, several hundred texts from the 15th century, works from the Renaissance, Shakespeare folios, the Mark Twain Papers, and much more. This summer, after more than a year of planning, Bancroft staff began moving the collections to temporary quarters while their building undergoes a general upgrade and seismic renovation, scheduled for completion in 2007. The move has been as extensively choreographed as a ballet.

One hurdle has been fitting figurative square pegs into round holes. Before being packed and moved, all books were pre-measured to determine where they would fit on the differently sized shelves at the four temporary locations that will house the Bancroft collection. Much of it will be kept at UC's Northern Regional Library Facility (NRLF) in Richmond, where many of the shelves are only 10-3/4" high — which means that taller books from the Bancroft collection will need to be stored flat. In addition, the NRLF shelves its materials by size rather than by call number, the method used at the Bancroft. Fortunately, these new storage arrangements won't prevent researchers from accessing needed material, which they will be able to request at the library's temporary location at 2121 Allston Way, scheduled to open in October. (For details, see bancroft.berkeley.edu/info/move.)

The Bancroft staff collaborated on security measures with the campus's offices of Library Preservation, Facilities Services, and Risk Management as well as the moving company. As of mid-August, 1,968 cartloads of collection materials had been transported off campus, and 34,000 linear feet of shelving at the NRLF had been filled. Also moved were six truckloads of framed art and four truckloads of printing presses and their accoutrements. There are still 10,000 linear feet of shelving to fill at the Allston Way location.

"It's been amazingly smooth," Susan Snyder, the Bancroft Library's head of public services, says of the move. "There's been a lot of creative thinking. No one here has ever been involved with something this logistically challenging. The expertise of the movers has been especially helpful. When faced with daunting conditions in the old building — narrow aisles, tiny elevators, large gaps in the flooring — they responded with innovative ideas and customized equipment."