by Eric C. Parker (Northwestern University, Pritzker Legal Research Center) <[email protected]>
and Maribel Hilo Nash (Northwestern University, Pritzker Legal Research Center) <[email protected]>
Getting Ready and Beginning Work
Pritzker Legal Research Center is the library for Northwestern University School of Law (“Northwestern Law”). As with many long-established libraries, we hold many older print materials, a significant portion of which are now reliably available electronically. The library expects to renovate its physical space, though that will likely entail a smaller footprint and less stack capacity.
In late 2010, the then-Associate Dean for Information Services asked our librarians to develop a plan detailing which materials would move off-site were the library to reduce its shelving capacity by up to 55%. In late spring, 2011, the librarians completed the plan, which consists of a series of rules for what to keep on-site and what to move to remote storage. The rules vary a bit from collection to collection within the library, but by and large they say to send off-site:
- those print materials which do not require extensive browsing, and for which there is reliable electronic access; and
- many older materials (regardless of electronic access) which have seen little use in the past 20 years.
While Pritzker planned, the University was building the first module of its Oak Grove Library Center, which opened in late fall, 2011. During the facility’s first two years of operation, the University Library and the Galter Health Sciences Library sent materials there. (A similar deselection project at the Galter Health Sciences Library is also detailed in this issue.)
As a construction project at Northwestern Law was about to break ground in spring, 2014, Pritzker became aware that about 5,000 volumes stored in our basement would need to be moved to allow construction crews access to a particular area. In our 2011 plan, we had identified these volumes to send off-site. These were sent during a three-week period in February and March, 2014. Later that spring, the Galter Health Sciences Library completed sending its weekly loads to Oak Grove, freeing up system capacity for Pritzker to begin sending materials. Following our 2011 plan, we have been sending weekly loads of materials since June, 2014, with occasional breaks.
Specifics on Doing the Work
Because we need to prepare weekly shipments with a lean staff, we have found a few ways to achieve maximum efficiencies.
First, our University Library colleague Gary Strawn helped us by modifying the Oak Grove Assistant program he developed for Northwestern’s internal use with Voyager. The modifications allow us to change item records in bulk by having Oak Grove Assistant process .txt files of scanned barcodes rather than scanning barcodes one-by-one into the program. Second, we decided to minimize the handling of materials. With the software modifications discussed above, we could pack the materials into totes in the stacks, instead of moving all volumes on trucks to a workstation for scanning and packing. The filled totes are moved from the stacks to our loading dock each week by facilities staff, which also drops off empty totes in the stacks.
In some cases, the staff use a laptop and portable barcode scanner to create the files of scanned barcodes that are emailed to be processed. In others, staff members pack the entire run without scanning, and the necessary database work is done with a related piece of software making batch changes to Voyager. The first approach works best when picking non-sequential volumes from an area (such as a portion of the monographs). The second approach works better when an entire run of a serial is being sent off-site.
There is typically a bit of cleanup work to do after the data are processed. However, this takes relatively little time compared to moving volumes and processing them one-by-one at a workstation, and has allowed Pritzker to continue work on an important project through a period of lean staffing and staff turnover.
We estimate our Oak Grove project will take about three years total to complete. At the end of that time, we expect to have on site a more compact and fresher-appearing collection that will be of greater use to our patrons, while allowing for changes to library space that accommodate contemporary usage patterns.