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Small army needed to move L&C Library collection

Posted at 6:33 PM, Sep 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-21 21:02:28-04

HELENA — The Lewis and Clark Library has reopened the lobby of their Main Branch, but only for pick at this time.

The Library has seen a large demand from the community for pick up and holds, with more than 300 items requested for Monday.

Library Director John Finn says the remodel of the library is coming along well, but there is still a lot left to be done before the library can be fully opened again.

One of the current hurdles is the monumental feat of moving and organizing an entire library.

There are 90,000 items in the collection at the Main Branch of the Lewis and Clark Library. The total collection weighs well over 40 tons, comparable to an adult sperm whale.

Moving and organizing such a large collection may seem like a white whale, but Finn says the collection management team has the situation well in hand.

“I jokingly say it is General Patton level organization,” said Finn. “Our collection management librarian James Parrott did an amazing job of making that plan and then it took the whole staff to execute it.”

Most of the shelving for the library remodel has arrived, and the current marching orders are to get the remaining items unpacked and to their designated area.

While it has taken a small army to pull a move like this off, it’s not like picking up and moving bricks. Books are fragile and need to be handled with care.

It took Library staff five full days just to move the 26,000 items that were at their temporary Capitol Branch.

“At the Capitol Branch we actually had a lot of AV material. So we had lots of Blu-ray, DVDs and CDs which are even more fragile than books. But we took great care of them in that transition from the branch back here and everything so far looks good,” said Finn.

Finn says his staff have been meticulously keeping track of items so they don’t get lost. The Library also performed an inventory before the move and will conduct another once everything is in place.

Modern technology has made the sorting process of 90,000 items far easier than it would have been just a few decades ago.

Each book has a RFID tag that let’s staff know exactly where the item belongs.

“We have a device that we can walk around the library with and it tells us what’s out of place and what’s missing,” said Finn.

It will still be several weeks before the library is fully open for browsing and staff are currently working with public health to develop a COVID plan for the remodeled library.

“We’re probably six weeks away from opening the library to the public, but we do have the holds pick up and the book drop is now open here. Those are the services we’re able to provide at the moment because right now there’s really no library to take part in,” said Finn.

Finn added the entire staff can’t wait to show the community the remodeled building in the coming weeks.