Steve Fisher and Katherine M. Crowe 2014-02-10 17:41:15
Working out of temporary quarters during building renovations is no easy feat. Archivists at the Penrose Library, University of Denver, recently faced numerous challenges resulting from ongoing renovation and had to make adjustments to serve users as effectively as possible. Although surprises during renovations are inevitable, planning and a little bit of luck can help archivists cope with any major changes their institutions undergo. Problems with Penrose The University of Denver (DU), originally Colorado Seminary, was founded in 1864. It’s the oldest higher education institution in the Rocky Mountain region and, as a result, the Special Collections and University Archives are highly visible. The first dedicated space for a library was created in University Hall, the first building on DU’s south Denver campus. Carnegie Library, which opened in 1908, was the university’s first freestanding library, and the last building to be personally given by Andrew Carnegie. Mary Reed Library, a collegiate gothic building with a large central tower, served as the library from 1931 until 1971. When Penrose Library was built in 1972, it was described as “futuristic” and “modern.” But as the decades rolled by, it became dated. In addition to a lack of shelf and study space, Penrose’s infrastructure could not support the twenty-first century electricity and data needs of the university’s faculty, students, and staff. The library employed several stopgap measures during the 1990s and 2000s, including storing some special collections, low-use books, and other materials in the old Mary Reed Library and sharing the offsite storage facility PASCAL with the University of Colorado and Colorado State University. In 2000, the library’s administration began a major push for either renovation or an entirely new building. Several factors argued for renovation, including the lack of open space on campus for new construction and Penrose’s excellent existing central location. Storage was a major topic of discussion during renovation conversations. The administration initially focused on a new Storage facility on campus, either under- or aboveground, but water table issues made an underground facility risky, and the lack of open space made an aboveground structure unlikely. Eventually the university acquired a warehouse ten miles from campus and retrofitted it to serve as an offsite storage facility (called the Hampden Center) for both the book collection and the boxed special collections and archives materials. Renovations for what would become the Penrose Library’s current building, the Anderson Academic Commons, began in 2010. The Big Move Initially renovations were to be completed in four phases. For each phase, one quarter of Penrose Library would be closed for renovation while everything else remained open, moving in quadrants as the renovation progressed. However, when asbestos abatement issues were discovered, this process was abandoned and the entire building was closed. In April 2011, we began the transport of three million books and other library materials from Penrose Library to the Hampden Center. The building was completely emptied in June 2011 after commencement, with all materials remaining accessible through the online catalog. The library staff was the last to move, and the move was scheduled so that no library services were interrupted during the transition. Special Collections and Archives was closed for the two-week interterm period, but reopened for the summer quarter. Most library service points moved to the Driscoll Student Center ballroom and surrounding rooms, which became known as “Penrose@Driscoll.” Due to space and security concerns, the Special Collections and Archives’ reading room relocated to Aspen Hall, a post–World War II brick former graduate student dormitory, where most of the library staff offices were located during the renovation. Aspen Hall has no elevators, no loading dock, and no central air conditioning (although it did have showers in every bathroom). Aspen Hall is also nearly identical to four other dormitory buildings that were built at the same time, which made it a challenge for researchers to find us. In addition, the dormitory was split into three nearly identical wings—north, central, and south—and the only way to get from one wing to another was through the basement. The size of the temporary reading room in Aspen Hall posed another challenge. The reading room in Penrose comfortably held six to ten people; in comparison, Aspen Hall could at most comfortably fit two researchers at a time. However, we were able to fit the bookcases from the Penrose reading room, and we only brought high demand materials to Aspen Hall, including student yearbooks, newspapers, bound university bulletins, annual reports, and a small selection of secondary sources about some of the prominent topics featured in our collections, such as artists’ books, Rocky Mountain Jewish history, and Colorado history. The rest of the boxed and book collections were stored offsite for the duration of the renovation. Collection Management during Renovation Archives Processing, a separate department housed within Technical Services, worked with us to prepare all boxed collections for offsite storage and retrieval. As a result, we were able to service researchers and answer reference questions successfully throughout the renovation. All boxed materials from Special Collections and Archives are managed in the collection management system Re:Discovery, which takes a traditional archival approach to management, with collection-, series-, box-, folder-, and item-level records. In many cases, collections were well-described at the collection level, but not at the box or folder level, which we realized was critical to efficient and accurate offsite retrieval. Archives Processing established a minimal level of control for all collections. Each would have a collection number (ex: MS B002) and title, and each box would have a box number (ex: Box 1), extent (ex: 1 record box), and at least a minimal level of description (ex: “Contains memos, meeting minutes, and photographs”). If we had time or more information, or when the collection was of a higher value, we would add date ranges, names, or any other information that would add value to the description. Despite its advantages, Re:Discovery had no paging ability or circulation statistics tracking and was completely foreign to the library’s Stacks Maintenance department, who would be pulling our requests. As a result, we decided to use Re:Discovery for all descriptive information and to use the library’s Integrated Library System (ILS) catalog to barcode, physically manage, page, and track requests. When a reference question came in, we would search Re:Discovery for descriptive information, locate the barcode in the Re:Discovery box record, and then request the box with that barcode using the catalog’s “Request It” feature. The turnaround time for these requests was often one to two hours, a time that made the somewhat cumbersome process of inventorying and adding records to both systems more than worth it. In addition, the circulation module in the catalog enabled us to, for the first time, run reports on exactly which boxes were requested from which collections and how many times each box was requested. User Visits With our temporary and difficult-to-find housing, we expected our overall numbers to drop, which was exactly what happened. During 2011–2012, our total count for reference email, traditional mail, phone calls, and live visits was 6,188, down from 6,904 during the 2010–2011 fiscal year. The biggest drop, of course, was in live visits; we had 457 live visits in 2011–2012, down from 1,384 in 2010–2011. However, email and traditional mail requests rose from 4,222 to 4,628, and phone requests rose from 1,298 to 1,610. From the Hampden Center, we retrieved 22 boxes in February 2012, 42 in March, 34 in April, 51 in May, and 45 in June—an average of 38 boxes retrieved per month. We set a 10-box limit per researcher per visit, and discussed the possibility of staff accompanying researchers to our off-site storage facility if need be, though this never happened. Rebirth as Anderson Academic Commons We moved into the new Anderson Academic Commons on March 25, 2013. Roughly 25,000 volumes of our rare book collection and about 500 linear feet of the most frequently used boxed archival collections returned, but we continue to request regularly from our off-site storage facility. The renovation was filled with challenges that we expected and some that we didn’t. What remained important throughout this period of numerous changes, though, was the same as always: providing our users with efficient and effective access to our collections.
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