University of Rochester Library Bulletin: Moving 450,000 Books

Volume XI · Winter 1956 · Number 2
Moving 450,000 Books

The merger of the College for Women and the College for Men brought many problems for the Library, not the least of which was the moving of some 100,000 books from the Prince Street Campus to the River Campus. Since Rush Rhees Library was already crowded, the first task was to provide a place for these books. Fortunately Rush Rhees Library was well planned for expansion. When this building was opened in 1930, only five floors of stacks were equipped in the book tower, which has room for nineteen floors. In 1940, three new floors were added, completing the first eight floors at the base of the tower and leaving eleven still to be installed.

To create the shelf space needed for the books from the Prince Street Campus and to provide some room for expansion, it was decided to add four more floors in the tower, bringing the total to twelve, and also to put two floors of stacks in the basement storeroom adjacent to the stacks. In the summer and fall of 1953, three of the leading stack construction firms studied our specifications and submitted their bids for the six new stack floors, a new elevator, and the extension of the book carrier and pneumatic tubes to the new floors. Early in 1954, a contract was signed with the firm that submitted the lowest bid, and it was expected that the work would be completed by September. Unfortunately, a strike at the plant delayed the manufacture of the equipment, so the installation did not begin until late in August. This gave the Library plenty of time to move the government documents out of the basement storeroom, but it also meant that most of this material had to be put into cartons and stored where it was not available for use. However, by the end of November the ninth and tenth floors were ready and the documents were again on shelves and could be used.

In December a new development caused a change in plans. The acquisition of the Thomas E. Dewey Collection as a gift from Governor and Mrs. Dewey made it necessary to add one more floor in the tower, this floor to be especially equipped to house manuscripts. The decision to add this thirteenth floor was made just as the final touches were being put on the new stacks, which were completed in January. The thirteenth floor was finished by March, and we were ready for the big move. This move included not only the 100,000 volumes at the Prince Street Campus, but also all the books already in the stacks of Rush Rhees Library, numbering some 350,000, which had to be relocated in order to make space in all parts of the stacks for the books from the College for Women.

The shifting in the stacks at Rush Rhees Library began in November and continued until most of it was completed by spring vacation in April. During spring vacation the first move from the Women's College Library was made, giving us an opportunity to try various methods before the major move in the summer. The collections in Romance Literature (PQ) and German Literature (PT) made up the bulk of the material transferred to Rush Rhees Library at this time. We first tried moving the books on the stack shelves themselves, but found that this was not practical because of the difficulties involved in loading and unloading. We then tried the wooden boxes which were used in 1930 when the Library was transferred to the River Campus. These proved to be easier to pack and load, so they were used for the rest of the moving, together with some cardboard cartons.

In the period between the close of the regular college year and the opening of summer school, another group of books was brought to Rush Rhees Library. Some of the books on science and more books from the literature section were moved from the Women's College Library, and about ten thousand volumes were transferred from the library in the Memorial Art Gallery to the new Art Library in the basement of Rush Rhees Library. Approximately 3,500 volumes were left at the Memorial Art Gallery to serve the staff, students, and members there. This change required the correction of all the catalog cards for the books remaining at the Memorial Art Gallery Library, and the creation of a new author catalog for this collection. Fortunately, the catalog cards for most of the rest of the books that were moved did not have to be changed immediately, since the books were put with the regular collection in the main stacks and could easily be located from the catalog.

The final big shift of books came in August after the close of the summer session. For three weeks a crew of four students and the Librarian worked at the Women's College Library, packing the remaining 80,000 volumes. The Service Department provided truck service and another crew of students to load and unload the boxes of books and the furniture which was moved at the same time. At Rush Rhees Library another crew of students under Miss Tweddell's direction unpacked the boxes of books and shelved the books in the stacks. Good, though hot, weather prevailed throughout the three weeks, so it was possible to move three truckloads of books and furniture every day, and still allow some time for the truck to make trips for other purposes. This onerous job was done with speed and facility because of the excellent work of our student assistants and the staff of the Service Department.

Once the books were on the shelves at Rush Rhees Library, they were available for use, because the books from the Women's College Library were placed on the lower shelves of the sections for the same class of books already in the Rush Rhees Library. This arrangement, however, was only temporary, for it seemed highly desirable to interfile the Women's College Library books with the Rush Rhees Library books. This process, which we called "integration," began immediately after the first move of books in April and continued until it was completed in December. During all of this time of moving, it was always possible to locate any book in the regular collections of both libraries, so service was interrupted only in the case of the unbound government documents, and that was for a period of three months. One user of the Library said, "I don't see how you moved so many books with so little confusion and interruption of service"; and, now that it is over, we are both pleased and surprised that such seems to have been the case.