Moving a Library

I’ve known my library was moving since before I even began in my current position back in September 2018. I’ve been in construction meetings since my first week and I’ve watched the remodel slowly progress. It wasn’t until last week when the move began that it really hit me:


I want to share some things I’ve learned during the moving process so you can avoid any unnecessary stress if you ever find yourself in this position.

 It’s basically a math word problem

For me the library move meant losing a few ranges of shelving. This was the only way everything would fit nicely into our newly re-designed space. This led to some serious weeding. I had to ask the tough questions like do we *really* need that bankruptcy book from 1986? And how attached am I to those federal reporters?

Moving also entailed repeatedly counting the shelves to make sure that all the books would fit. I probably counted the shelves two dozen times and I had two dozen different numbers.

Why the varying numbers?

I never gave myself a system of what counted as a half shelf, quarter shelf, or “growth space”. This made it difficult to articulate to the movers what I meant and how I wanted to lay out the new space. They were putting everything in boxes, and I was telling them to put it on the shelf. But that’s not enough.

When the movers began unboxing they weren’t leaving enough space – they had no idea what a library “should” look like and I wasn’t sure how to describe it either. We basically had to do the work twice because of this error. I highly recommend taking pictures of the shelves before they’re moved to refer to them when you’re trying to recreate them. This would have saved me a lot of trouble.


VERY cramped shelves – what happens when movers don’t know what a library “should” look like.


Empty shelves – a side effect of too full shelves

There will be boxes

So. Many. Boxes.

I mean hundreds of them. My move had to take place in two phases once when the contractor needed to move the shelves and again when the space was finished, and we could put the books back on the shelves. For a couple months the majority of my collection was boxed up and stored in the back corner of the library. I had 222 boxes waiting to find a new home.


The boxes themselves weren’t a challenge but making sure all the contents are properly labeled and we knew what shelf each of them would eventually occupy was. Learn from my mistakes – I highly suggest not just labeling the boxes with the call numbers but also the order in which they go on the shelf. The USCA all shares a call number but there is a big difference between Vol 1 of the Constitution and the indexes at the end of the set. It’ll save you and your movers time if everything is very clearly labeled.

Have a clear vision

I can’t say this enough – really think about how your patrons use the library and what their needs are. I originally wanted a separate Idaho section and reference section in a finite amount of space. I had to ask myself if it was necessary to have a separate reference section – and for my library it wasn’t. My patrons are court staff; law clerks, judges, attorneys, and occasionally a public patron. They’re never looking for the same thing. A reference section in my library doesn’t make sense because I’ll get a question about ERISA followed by one about water law. There are no “commonly used books” that need to be shelved separately. So, I decided to do away with the reference section. I chose instead to have special shelves right up front for Idaho materials and shelve everything else according to call number with periodicals going in the back of the library. This layout makes sense to me and will to my patrons as well.

All in all, moving the library wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be. I definitely had some hiccups and there is still SO MUCH to do but I’m happy with the result and I’m excited to be in our new space!


Once the books are shifted I know this is going to be a lovely new library space! 

This entry was posted in Humor, Issues in Law Librarianship, Issues in Librarianship (generally), Library Collections and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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