Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Library Renovation Notes

There's not a good way to direct people to this web site: I Googled "tips for packing up a school library" (without quotation marks), and got this link, which doesn't work when I paste it into the browser.


The information comes from someone in the Sampson County Schools in North Carolina, and it's very good. I wish I had know about the food boxes-- it's all I have and will have to do! Packed up 60 boxes today with the help of my wonderful parent volunteer Michele. I hope to do more tomorrow and maybe even have students move things out to the cafeteria.

Packing up a Library

Weed the collection

Dust the collection.

Take digital/video pictures of each area of your library collection plus placement of tables, pictures, globes, shelves etc.

Order as many rolling book carts as you can to rent/borrow


Order boxes no larger than to hold one shelf of books

Copy paper boxes do well.

Order boxes from Follett or your jobber. Your rep may get these for you free and you just pay the shipping charges.

Don't use food boxes to pack them as the scent from food can lure bugs.


If your shelving is not being moved, label all the shelves really well with the range of call numbers to ease re-shelving.

Get neon colored paper: One color for Fiction; One for Easy; One for Non-Fiction; One for Reference. Mark each with black marker.

Clearly number and label the boxes. Fiction 1, A-Ag; Fiction 2 Ah-Bn; etc, on the top, and all sides.


Fill one box, label it on several sides with the call number range, then put the next box on top of that first one and continue to a 3 box height level. Maintenance then would move the 3 boxes together.

Put a sticky note on the last book of each shelf. That way you know how many books should go back on each shelf.

Spine Up? Spine Down? Lay flat? However you choose to do it, make sure the books have NO wobble room. Pack tight with butcher paper as a filler.

I would pack them spine down. I had to pack up my library for a year and some of the books that were spine up dropped out of their bindings. If you do pack them spine down make sure they are tightly packed so they don't fall over in the box.

I have packed up a library at least 3-4 times, and I would recommend that:

You lay the books flat. You want to create "bricks" so to speak, so that when the boxes are stacked, the boxes on the bottom can support the weight of those on top. My first experience was with a school district gave me old grocery boxes of all shapes and sizes which were not sturdy and basically fell apart, I have insisted on bankers boxes. After many treatments by orthopedic doctors and neurosurgeons for disc problems and pinched nerves, I only pack boxes 3/4 full at the most. The boxes get too heavy. It is important to have them so the weight doesn't shift side to side, but it has been fine to let the top 1/4th of the box crush down--no damage has occurred. Also, when you move, the banker boxes are the right size to fit in the shelf if you are able to pack by shelf. The last time we did this, we were able to have a door to door move, with the packed boxes going from their old shelf to their new shelf, and sitting in their box until we got ready to unpack. I am afraid the spines would be damaged by packing the spines up--divide and crush.

Having packed 4 libraries, I strongly suggest packing books laying down to save the spine of the tallest books in a box. Also, I would recommend packing the boxes completely with books, up to the top.

Pack crumpled newspaper in any gaps to prevent sliding. If you place them in spine up, don't stack your boxes on top of each other. Over several months (or even days) the lids (or flaps) can cave in under the weight of the top box and crush the tallest spine(s). I've even had brand new books with twisted spines because the custodian stored my new book boxes stacked 2 or 3 high.

The movers stack boxes 5 to 10 high and that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the bottom box.

Include in each box anything else that was on that shelf (book ends, shelf markers, etc.) so unpacking will be as seamless as possible. Keep a master list of how many boxes of each type so that you will know what to expect to unpack.

Don't overload the cartons (I believe paper weighs 60 pounds per cubic foot) and use good tape on the bottom.

If you are putting the books back in the same places, not re-arranging the library or adding shelving, mark the shelves clearly as to what number starts where to make it easier for helpers to put the books back.

If you have modular book shelves for some of your collection, try to put as many books on the empty shelves and label clearly what they are. Then get some of that packing plastic from Staples, etc. and wrap all around the whole thing. Use a marker and write ON THE PLASTIC which books they are (Call #s).

Run your shelf list by section. When you get ready to unpack your boxes, hang signs on your walls as to call number division, then organize boxes by call number and compare with your shelf list.

If your shelving is being dismantled, make a chart of the shelf layout, and label all the shelves on the chart, and on the shelves themselves.

Packing doesn't take much time; it is unpacking that takes the majority of time.

Make sure you do not lift any heavy boxes. That is what maintenance people do.

Drink water and wear a dust mask.

Watch this Video by Nancy J. Keane:


Thanks to the Librarians on LM_NET who gave us these great tips on packing up a Library!


  1. We have a local beer distributer who gave us new beer boxes. They were the perfect size and had cut-outs for handles. Labeling and numbering the boxes is key for getting things back on shelves. Good luck!

  2. I used to work at B&N and Borders and if you give them enough time (and they don't have imminent returns) you can get a whole bunch of boxes all the same size. I recommend no more than 50lbs per box and wear a brace. Also, it uses more boxes but the best way by far is to just pull them off the shelf and place them in the box in order and put in the paper. Then label and remove in the same order and place back on shelves. Much faster and it's better to have lots of light boxes than fewer too heavy and mixed up boxes.

  3. The librarian who took my position at my first ever real library job (I was on maternity leave) had to move the library to a new office building. It was a corporate, engineering library.

    In subsequent jobs, she had to plan and execute the moves of libraries of federal judges (they apparently change offices frequently)

    Eventually she ended up working for a company that specializes in moving large (universities) and small (museum and professional societies) library collections.

    I never knew there was a whole sub specialization of librarianship that deals exclusively with just moving the books.