Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy New Year!

2011 was a heck of a year.  In 2010 we moved about a million library items, sometimes 3 or 4 times, accommodating the Google project and emptying the Ivy Stacks facility to allow for the renovation.  In early 2011 we started to bring the stuff back up to Charlottesville from the storage sites in Orange, VA and Richmond.  We initially moved as much as we could to processing stations in Alderman Library and a rented space on Linden Ave. in C'ville.  We bar coded at least 300,000 items after searching the catalog and replacing the item ID with the bar code number.  We then sorted by size, put the materials in appropriate boxes, and waited for construction to be completed.  Spacesaver completed the project in late June, 2011, on time and on budget.  (Gasps of relief from yours truly.)  In mid-July we had Chris Brennan from GFA train us on the Library Archival System (LAS) used to track the placement of materials on the shelves (thanks, Chris.  Great job!) and then we just 'had at it.'  We established a pipeline of stuff coming from Orange/Richmond, going to Alderman/Linden, then moved again to Ivy Stacks for final shelving.  A few tweaks along the way and the status is so far so good.  The current count is 534,704 items on the shelves at Ivy, tucked away by size in 31,890 acid free trays.  That's some pretty good work.

All this good work was treated to a taste of success just in the past few weeks.  Before Christmas, and then earlier today, I was perusing the requests in ILLiad, looking for requested items that normally would have been at Ivy.  Each time I found one such request.  I then looked to see if we had accessioned that item back onto a shelf at Ivy.  Lo and behold, both times the item was on a shelf and, praise <insert deity here>, we were actually able to retrieve it and deliver it to the patron.  So, it's all coming together.

Still lots of work in handling materials and integrating our catalog with the ILLiad request modules with the LAS.  But I am very hopeful that this project can transition from a massive mobilization of time, staff and money into a manageable workflow that lives up to the high standards of the UVa Library.  So, to everyone who has helped with project and to all of you who have an interest, here is to a good New Year in 2012 that will result in something good that continues many, many years into the future.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


While I am pleased with the press coverage the Ivy Stacks project has received over the past several weeks, the media continues to use words that I (unsuccessfully) discourage.  Tops on this list is the word 'storage' as in 'Ivy Stacks is a remote storage facility.'  In the library world we prefer the term 'shelving' facility.  It's much more librarian-ish.  Wal-Mart stores stuff for distribution.  Libraries shelve stuff for circulation.  Ivy Stacks is definitely part of the UVa Library system, not a place to simply stash stuff to get it out of sight.

Notice I use the word facility to describe the building.  Many people, including our friends in the media, often also use the word warehouse.  Ouch.  Warehouse has such a static, dormant, kind of a sense of 19th Century abandonment feel to it.  The Ivy Stacks facility is a working, active place.  Who wants to put money into a warehouse, especially in an academic setting with tight budgets?  A facility on the other hand implies a credible, worthwhile investment, which is much more appropriate to describe what Ivy Stacks is.  So I never use the word warehouse to describe Ivy Stacks but let's face it--it looks a lot like a warehouse so that's the word people use. 

All that said, thanks go out to the UVa Alumni magazine for their coverage of the Ivy Stacks retrofit.  Despite some of the their choice of vocabulary (however they often got it right), they were kind and accurate in their story, and they have a really good photographer.  Check it out at .

Quick update--we will have accessioned item number 500,000 by the end of the week.  Not bad for 4 months work.  I can kind of see what might be something like a light at the end of the tunnel. Wait, it just went out due to the holidays.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Doing Well. Incredibly Well.

I never thought the day would come when we were running out of materials to shelve at Ivy.  But at the pace the crew is working, it is hard to constantly feed the machine.  We have about 900 boxes of stuff delivered to Ivy every Thursday.  During the first several weeks we would still have boxes to process when the next shipment came in.  These days we get through the usual number by late Tuesday.  Up until now we had some boxes from our Business, Law, and Health Sciences libraries stashed down one of the aisles to get to when we could (which I thought might be next Spring).  But we have gotten through most of that.  So, I need to figure out an accelerated delivery schedule.  We have a large surplus of boxes of items in Alderman Library that are ready to go to Ivy (i.e. bar-coded and sorted) we just need to figure out a way to get them to Ivy.  And if that is the toughest challenge I have, then that ain't bad.  I think the solution will involve a truck.

We have now accessioned 332,085 items into Ivy using 19,616 trays.  That is 3 months work, so my goal of 100,000/month is well on track.  My fantasy of 120,000/month has fallen a bit short, but that's why I call it a fantasy.  And while the guys at Ivy can see every day the fruits of their labor, a big shout out needs to go to the Interlibrary Services staff in Alderman who are folding those thousand of trays, attaching a handle, applying a label, and bundling them up for transport.  It takes a village.  A large village.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Life is Good

Since the earthquake, followed by Hurricane Irene, things have settled down and the project is progressing well.  Over the past two months we have accessioned over 230,000 items.  The AH, BL and BH sizes go the quickest.  The DL and DH sizes kick our butts.  Luckily over half the items have been in the BH category.

Somehow the math isn't working out, though.  We should be at about 1/3 completed based on our preliminary estimate of 750,000 items housed at Ivy Stacks.  This was based on the number of records in our catalog indicating the location as Ivy.  However, we have only gone through about 20% of the boxes holding materials being stored in Orange.  I'm not a cataloger but apparently one catalog record would describe many items.  Now, each item needs a bar code and its own record, so we are getting a clearer picture of what we really own, and I think we own more stuff than we thought.  And I must say, some of it is total junk, but for the most part it is a pretty interesting collection.  If only I could read it (lots of foreign language materials and I took Latin in high school and haven't found much of anything written in Latin).  That said, all in all, except for a dropped tray full of books on rare occasion, life is good.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


We had a little excitement the other day when an earthquake rolled through central Virginia.   I am sure you have heard about it.  I happened to be standing next to the shelving in the Ivy Stacks facility with a couple of the guys when we heard the train coming (yes, it sounds exactly like a train).  An earthquake is a really unusual event in this neck of the woods so we weren't sure what was going on at first.  Then the 10 ranges of 30 feet high and 190 feet long empty shelving made of sheet metal began to vibrate and shake.  It made quite a racket!  I probably should have stepped back a little bit but I was so amazed that we were experiencing an earthquake I was kind of frozen in wonderment and curiosity.  It never occurred to me the shelving might come crashing down and thankfully it did not.  It didn't really even sway or teeter, it just shook and made noise.  After what seemed like a pretty long time the earthquake passed and everything settled down.  The High Bay Xtend Shelving System from Spacesaver was put to the test early in its lifespan and passed with flying colors.  And to think that up to this point my main fear has been a water leak or power outage.  Now I have a whole new universe of disasters to keep me awake at night.  Oh, and Hurricane Irene is on its way here in a couple of days.

But we keep trudging along, doing well with accessioning materials onto the very stable and solid shelving system.  So far we have processed over 120,000 items and I am pretty pleased with that result.  Absent any more quakes, 'canes, or who knows what else I think things will continue to go along swimmingly.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Big Progress

The Ivy Stacks crew has been working hard in transferring materials from boxes into trays and accessioning them onto the shelves.  It is very physical labor and taking its toll on my 50-something arms and legs.  But my back if fine, so I am happy about that.  Thanks to Renee, Ray, Steve, Daniel, Tyler and Tim for their efforts. 

In an earlier post I stated I hoped we could process 5000, or even 6000 items/day.  I am very gratified to report that we are definitely averaging around 5500 items/day and our record for one day stands at over 7900 items shelved.  That's tremendous especially since a lot of these were the very heavy and clumsy DL size books.  We still have a few hundred boxes of those to get through, but then we will be looking at a bunch of AH and BH size items and they are smaller and lighter.  I think we can sustain a rate of 120,000 items shelved/month which would mean we would be very close to our goal of having these materials available for circulation in January 2012.  Please, everyone, keep your fingers crossed for us.  Thanks.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Is It Warm Outside?

Yes, it is.  I think it was 104 degrees warm yesterday (7/22/2011).  But is is nice and cool in the Ivy Stacks where I and several colleagues have been training the past week on the GFA Library Archival System under the gracious tutelage of Chris Brennan.  It began with an avalanche (think cool thoughts) of information but in the end everyone seemed to get the hang of it.  We'll find out soon.

So the construction is finished and the Xtend High Bay Mobile Shelving System is quite impressive.  It has even attracted the attention of the University's Public Affairs Office.  Check it out--

I have a fantasy that we will be able to move 6000 items/day from boxes to trays to shelves.  A more realistic goal might be about 5000/day.  But even during training, with all the interruptions to learn the workflow and ask questions we were able to move over 3500 items/day, so that seems promising to me.  We are going to try to retrieve materials from Ivy as they are accessioned into their new home. We'll see how that works out.  The goal remains to have everything in place by January 2012.  Yet another path paved with good intentions.

In the meantime I have to make sure we have enough trays on hand, barcodes (I still haven't ordered the shelf location labels yet), a workable delivery schedule to get materials delivered from the warehouse in Orange, to the processing centers at Linen Ave. and Alderman Library, then off to Ivy, and no doubt other concerns of extreme importance are not occurring to me right now.  Like how to recycle 50,000 cardboard boxes and over 1000 wood pallets (but thankfully not all at once).  And...more stuff I'm sure.  Fortunately there are a lot of good people contributing to the success of the project. far so good.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

That's Done

First of all, go NOW to the video section of this site and check out the 190+ feet of shelving rolling on I forget how many railroad tracks.  The construction of our new shelving system is complete!  There may be a few odds and ends to wrap up, but for the most part Spacesaver has come through on time and on budget.  Thanks to Mark, Dave, and John (from Spacesaver), and Warren and all the guys from Martin Horn Construction as well as the many, many subcontractors that put this thing together with minimal drama and stress.  A toast to your good work.

So now on with the task of putting all this new shelving to use.  We need a couple of weeks to iron out any bugs in the system, clean the place up a little bit, test the fire suppression system, and prepare for the stage of accessioning our materials into the renovated facility.   We need computers in the building, hand held scanners, mobile computers, bar codes for the shelf openings, shelf height labels, shelf location labels, printers, no doubt other things (do we need a fax machine?) and a schedule for delivering boxes of stuff to Ivy Stacks.  And all of this before the week of July 18 when we will have training on how to place trays of books into the shelves with some hope of finding them again.  But this whole project has gotten this far without too many bumps in the road so I am optimistic we can meet the next challenge.  Right?  And one more thing, we need to start folding trays. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Construction Phase Just About Done

It's been a few weeks since I last blogged about the project and a lot has been done in that time.  The shelving construction is just about complete.  Spacesaver and the Rack Pros erected the shelving in three stages starting at the back of the warehouse.  They are now completing the third module.  Work space is pretty tight in the warehouse now but the guys seem to be managing pretty well.  Hopefully they will be done by June 30, 2011 then there are numerous inspections involving the sprinkler system and various alarms.  In early July any final details will be attended to (the 'punch list').  We can then begin to accession materials back into the facility with the helpful guidance of our newest best friend Christine Brennan from Generation Fifth Associates. 

In the meantime we have a great crew working on bar coding and pre-sorting as much stuff as we can.  We'll have  plenty of items ready to be trayed and shelved as soon as we can get into the door of the new Ivy Stacks. 

I almost hate to keep saying this but so far so good. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cooking with Gas

Visible progress is being made at a rapid pace.  The installation of the new lighting, HVAC, and fire suppression system is complete and the shelving is being installed.  Renee and I will post some new pictures soon, so keep an eye out on the Photos page for some impressive updates.

In the meantime work continues to ensure all the items going into the renovated facility can be quickly accessioned using the inventory management system.  This requires every item be evaluated for a minimal level of durability (generally it has to be able to stand upright in a cardboard tray), discoverability in the library catalog, properly barcoded, and finally sorted into one of ten different size ranges.  A great crew of library staff, temporary wage workers, and volunteers continue to work at the warehouse on Linden Ave and we have recently opened up operations on the 1st floor of Alderman Library.  We need to get through several hundred thousands of items so we can use all the help we can get. 

At a town meeting of library staff a couple of weeks ago Renee, along with our colleagues Tim Morton and Ruth Dillon, updated everyone on our current status and invited each person to work with their supervisors to schedule times when they could contribute to the project.  It is really a great opportunity for this community of book lovers to touch and (very briefly) leaf through some interesting stuff.  The collections from Ivy are not rare or particularly unique.  They are valuable parts of our overall collection, they just aren't used very much.  However, some of them are beautifully illustrated (childrens books have especially caught my eye), there are languages I can't recognize at all, and there are some reminders of our past that are both glorious and terrifying. 

You may have noticed Renee added a tab to this blog for information about volunteering.  She was genius in including information for members of the community who may have an interest in donating a few hours of their time to the project.  Even without solicitation we have trained and scheduled several members of the general public to contribute.  And several staff members have told me they have a cousin, child, grandchild, friend, spouse, or neighbor asking about how they can become involved.  I admit I had not anticipated or thought to consider community volunteers as part of the project.  It was Renee who suggested we reach out to this constituency and it has already reaped some very  tangible rewards.  I think this group will grow and bring energy and enthusiasm to the project, and I am very happy to have them on-board. 

Check out the photos of the boxes in Orange.  That is our challenge. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Watching Concrete Dry

It has been a while since my last post but most of what has been going on with the project has been behind the scenes or is a continuation of what we have been doing.  The concrete was poured and we spent a couple of weeks watching it dry.  Well, I didn't actually sit there and watch, I did other stuff instead, but that was about as dramatic as it got on the construction side of things.  After the crew could move around in the facility work continued on the installation of the duct work for the HVAC system.  The sprinkler system is being installed right now.  The big day will be when Spacesaver comes in to install the shelving.  That is scheduled for April 26th.  Renee and I will be there to get some photos.

In the meantime we have begun to increase our production of pre-processing materials.  That work is going well at the Linden Ave. facility and we will soon inherit some space in our main library--Alderman Library--so we can expand our operation. 

I have been spending some time helping out with the bar coding and sorting by size and I admit I am enjoying working with the materials.  I have come across some amazing illustrated children's books from the 19th Century as well as journals from 1930s Nazi Germany (pretty scary stuff and I can't read what it says), sermons from some  passionate preachers of years past, and books by authors I have never heard of but who were quite prolific in their day.  I must resist the impulse to examine everything that looks interesting because we have to get this stuff through the pipeline, but still, a few moments with a volume of Popular Science is like spending time with an old friend.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lots Happening

It has been a busy February! 
  • The rails are being installed in Ivy Stacks.  Renee has posted some photos for you to check out.  
  • Pre-processing operations at the Linden Ave. facility are going well.  It is easy to see that sorting by size, even when you are placing the items in a box rather than a tray, significantly reduces the space occupied by the materials.  
  • Hopefully we will be getting our first shipment of trays this week, then it will be time to start folding about 50,000 or more of them.  
  • The order picker specifications are a topic of much discussion and we should be able to place the order this week.  I hope.  There is a long turn-around time between placing the order and having it delivered, and we will need the machine starting day one, so this is important to get correct and done soon.
  • I am worried that the upgrade to the fire suppression system, requiring digging up the temporary loading dock we had prepared, will delay the delivery of the shelving infrastructure.  I hope not, but we'll see.
  • I am starting to put together a plan for the staffing needed to process the items.  Among the challenges are we will be in at least three locations (not counting the work being done by the staff at the Darden Business School Library), with only one on Grounds in Alderman Library.  Other challenges include the physical nature of the work--there is a lot of lifting and standing.  Also, the materials we are processing are often old and dusty.  Not a good environment for our friends with allergies.  We will be counting mostly on regular library staff to pitch in, and they are all busy with their regular work.  However, we'll get it done somehow.
  • Finally, I had an awesome trip to our good friends at Wake Forest University.  They have been going through the same process as UVa and have been very willing to share their experience.  Big shout out to Mary Beth Lock, Lauren Corbett, and all the crew at WFU for allowing me to look over their shoulders and ask questions.  They started from scratch and have made incredible progress.  They have a lot to be proud of.
Next up is to finish the rail installation, pour concrete, erect the shelving, and move about one million books, journals, folio boxes, microforms, LPs, and other assorted items into the renovated Ivy Stacks.  Sounds daunting, but so far so good.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Amazing Work Being Done

Everything is going well with the project.  Amazingly well.  The new HVAC duct work installation is being completed at Ivy and Spacesaver is scheduled to be here on Monday, February 14, 2011 bringing the rails to install.  I am sure our friends from Wisconsin are fully recovered from the Green Bay Packers victory in the Super Bowl.  The installation of the rails will take a couple of weeks then we pour concrete--lots and lots of it.  We will definitely be adding photos and (hopefully) video of that operation.  Renee and I will be at Ivy when the rails come in so stay tuned.

In the meantime the guys continue to pre-process our materials as much as they can and are making good progress.  Truth be told, I don't want that part of the operation to move too quickly because I have no place to store the boxes of items that have been bar coded and sorted by size.  We are getting the hang of sorting by size and that is important.  Once we have trays and a place to put them we will be able to really roll.  I also recently visited the 1040 pallets of stuff we are storing in Orange and all is well there.

And we should have trays soon.  We have placed the order with Supply One, Inc.  They have a manufacturing plant in Weyers Cave, VA, just over the mountain from Charlottesville.  They have supplied containers to UVa and many others in Virginia for years and I am confident they will do a good job supplying us with what we need.  I know Virginia Tech has used them for trays at their off site facility and are satisfied.  We're just riding their coat tails.  I'm glad we can use a local company for this contract.

Look for new photos next week.  This should be exciting.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Big Progress with the Construction at Ivy

The construction company, Martin Horn, has made a lot of progress at Ivy stacks.  All the old HVAC, sprinkler pipes, lights, and everything else has been removed.  Even as the last of the old air vents were being moved out for recycling the new duct work was being installed.  Renee has posted some new photos and the scene is quite impressive.  Check them out on the Photos page.

We have now begun some serious work on sorting our items from Ivy by size.  Even though we don't have any trays yet, and we have no extra space to store materials that have been sorted by size, we have begun going through the first of 36,000 boxes to measure the item (using the sizing template that is standard in this work and made by some very good people in Facilities Management), make sure the bar code is in the proper position, and place like sized items into clearly marked boxes.  The idea being when we have trays and the facility is ready to shelve them, we will be able to quickly place the items in appropriate trays, scan the materials into the inventory management system, and place them on the correct shelf. 

The schedule now calls for essential completion of all construction in mid-July 2011.  That is awesome.  We will need to process (from sizing to the shelf) over 6000 items/day to make our target of re-opening Ivy in January, 2012, but I am optimistic this can be done.  So far things have gone well and I believe this will continue to be the case until I am convinced otherwise.  I mean, really, what could go wrong?