Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I thought I had problems

In 1995 when Ivy Stacks first opened there had been a lot of discussion, even controversy, about the wisdom of moving books and other materials out of the library building into an off site shelving facility.  In 2010, when planning for the expansion of shelving capacity at Ivy required closing the facility for 18 months, many of my colleagues didn't think much of the idea.  But it was nothing compared to the remarks the folks at the New York Public Library are hearing (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/nyregion/changes-planned-at-ny-public-library-are-assailed.html but this link won't last forever).  I am frankly quite surprised and disappointed at the reactions coming from so many smart, well seasoned researchers.  Geez, NYPL has been moving materials to the ReCAP facility in New Jersey for years and, while the system isn't perfect, neither is the current model.  And considering the alternatives--completely withdrawing seldom used items or allowing them to collect dust (and who knows what else) in unsuitable environmental conditions--moving them to a safe location seems like a pretty responsible thing to do.  Sure, I'd love to have every book in every edition ever published available to everybody who walks in the door of the Library.  But that isn't happening, it has never happened, and it won't happen anytime soon.  I think everyone should take a deep breath, try and think beyond your own self interest, and play that hand that was dealt you as best as you can.  And if anyone can come up with a better plan then don't keep it a secret. 

The numbers as of June 11, 2012:

Items accessioned:  877,059
Trays used: 58,890
Shelves filled: 4,929
Total shelves at Ivy: 12,160
% of shelves filled: 40

I have cautioned in the past that not all shelves are created equal, but this project has really expanded our capacity to retain materials that otherwise might have ended up in a much less desirable, accessible place.  The folks in New York should think about the possible fates of their valued materials.  Sitting in a secure, environmentally controlled building one day away isn't the worst thing that can happen to a book that hasn't been touched in years.