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The Top Three Challenges of Library Relocation

by on April 22, 2016

Due to a renovation project for some much needed building repairs, my library was forced to temporarily relocate. Our approximately 65,000-item collection was reduced to a little over 4,000 available items. We left our 4,900 square foot space to set up temporary residence in approximately 300 square feet. The transition process took four weeks. We hired a company to pack our collection for storage, but all other packing, including what we were moving or needed accessible was done by staff. We are now settled in and hope to return home in the fall.

While I have personally moved nearly forty times and relocated two library departments,this was my first experience moving an entire library. It has been educational. Several of my neighbors, who will soon be going through the same process in their libraries, have called with questions. It has struck me that the top questions from everyone (patrons, board members, other libraries) have all been the same:

  1. How did you decide what to bring?

In our case, we knew we were moving into a very tiny space and that our collection would continue to grow. For that reason, we decided we would bring the last six months of new materials. To this we would supplement a very small number of items we knew would be wanted, such as the first books of a trilogy series that would be completed within the year.

What we did not anticipate… when it was announced we were to close for a few weeks to pack and move, our patron base went into a tizzy. They came in groves and checked out literally armfuls to carry them through. While on the one hand, this was gratifying, on the other hand we had not anticipated shelving for such materials in our new space.

  1. How are you packing all of this?

There are many systems available that discuss how to pack a collection keeping it in order. Generally it involves having one shelf per box and labeling the boxes extensively by collection and call number. Sheets marking progress and box numbers are attached to the shelves. It is, in fact, not particularly difficult, but it does require organization and a structured workforce that follows direction. Not your typical, well-meaning volunteers. We hired a professional moving company. They brought a team, the team packed leisurely for four days. In the end, we had approximately a thousand boxes. Each box was color coded for its collection or location and labeled by call number. We also received an inventory of the boxes as well as the color code key.

What we did not know… was that the box size and structure that the moving company uses was different than boxes that we had looked into purchasing ourselves. Their boxes were significantly better! Hiring the packers was definitely worthwhile. Had we packed ourselves, our box count would have been significantly greater and the risks of damage higher.

  1. What are you doing with the collection that has been packed and not coming with you?

Originally our collection was to be stored at a town facility; however, when the estimate was that we could have 1,500–2,000 boxes, an alternate plan was formed. Ultimately, we hired the same company who packed the collection to transport the packed boxes on sealed pallets and store them in their warehouse. We ended up with forty-five pallets.

What we learned in this process… was that the insurance that the moving company carried on the collections they store is insufficient. The arrangement our company offered us was a replacement cost of sixty cents per pound, per item for damage that the company caused. All other possible events (a fire in the warehouse, for example), were not included. In this process, we did learn that our own insurance policy could be altered to include coverage while the collection was stored at their warehouse.

If you are anticipating a move in your future, we wish you all the best.


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