Oversized material poses a challenge when it comes to shelving. We are fortunate to have shelves that are designed for these types of large items. But how should they be organized and kept safe?
Large heavy books were located on top shelves which made them difficult and potentially dangerous to retrieve, and large thin portfolios were unable to lie flat.
Over time disfiguration can occur when a book is slouched or forced into an awkward position.
So to begin the process I approached the curator and proposed that over a course of a few days the student and I could come in and clean and tidy up in order to return the books to a more fitting posture and refresh the very small space. The offer was well received as the staff there has no time to address such a project.
We brought in a small vacuum, a book truck, face masks, gloves, ear plugs, lab coats, a spray bottle and lots of paper towels. The books and shelves were quite dusty so we needed to do a good amount of cleaning. Working as a team was the best way to go. I had done this type of project when I was a student, along with a co-worker, and we ended up making a lot progress and having quite a good time.
We started at the top of one end of the shelving and worked our way down and over. One person would do an initial vacuum over the books and shelf and then would hand the books to the other person who would put them on the book truck. The books would then be vacuumed more thoroughly moving the nozzle across the surface and around the edges in a forward motion. Our colleagues at the University of Washington created this nice video on cleaning if you are interested in more details on cleaning books: http://www.lib.washington.edu/preservation/preservation_services/clean
The other person would mist a bit of water over the bare shelf to minimize the dust from spreading, and wipe it dry removing the dirt and dust. Books were then returned to the shelf. We did have flexibility to slightly alter the location of the books, so when very large heavy books were on a top shelf we could relocate them to a lower shelf. We were also able to reunite sets of books that had gotten separated.
We were careful to take breaks and not spend too many hours in a single visit.
So over a course of a few days, working for just a few hours a day, we were able to transform the space into a more functional and pleasant area. The books are easier to find and danger from heavy books falling from a top shelf was removed. Our efforts were appreciated by both the staff and the books! Summer is slowly approaching so it’s not too early to start thinking about your good deed project! Maybe one for “Preservation Week”. http://www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/preswk