Friday, December 5, 2008

Wrangling, Corporate-style

In two weeks, I will split my single library collection into two satellite libraries. Well, the splitting is already completed, on paper anyway. No, what happens in two weeks is the physical division and relocation of the library to its two new accommodations.

This comes as part of my law firm's renovation of our downtown TO office space. Each and every office, corridor, cubicle and kitchen is being re-created according to a designer's imagination and specification. The library, once a single, large and dusty room situated on one floor of our two-floor office tower space will become two, smaller libraries, one for each floor and holding content specific to that floor's user group/legal practice area need.

Splitting a library collection according to user need/practice area takes a lot of work, as you can imagine. Everything from updating the newly created OPAC, colour-coding spine labels to make things easier for lawyers, actually determining which text will go where, duplicating regularly accessed print reference resources, all while managing the library on a daily basis makes for involved times.

STOP!

Now, throw both a Building Committee and a Library Committee into the fray!

GO!

I made a mistake. This professional presented a two-year projection of library services and space requirements designed to maximize services while minimizing physical footprint to the Building Committee via the Library Committee. This professional made a gross error by presenting accurate physical measurements of linear-foot shelving requirements. This professional did not pad or exaggerate figures. This professional should have padded and exaggerated the figures ... a lot. The library was granted 20% less than its minimal footage requirement.

Now, my library is small. By the standards of other libraries, my print holdings are miniscule. It is a single research/reference/administrative/all-hats-worn librarian, full-time operation. Oh, sure, I could sorely use the assistance of a technician, but funds being what they are.... However, regardless of size, we all know that at the very least … well … you gotta have space to place what you gotta have on hand. On top of this, the physical space requirements of libraries change on a daily basis as new materials are added and old materials are removed from the collection. It is the library as organism story.

For a two-year projection, after heavy weeding of old or disused materials, I presented a requirement of 530 linear feet to shelve the collection. At the very minimum, the library requires 500 linear feet to hold the current collection, heavily weeded collection. The library has been granted a total of 440 linear feet to hold the complete, heavily weeded collection. An additional 60 linear feet has been granted to allow for a total of 500 linear feet, but this is on paper only. The additional shelving will not be built. In Corporate Speak, the additional shelving has been “Deferred”. This roughly translates into “The Building and Library Committees recognise the requirements of the Library, will appear to grant additional footage, but will not actually build the additional footage.” Why was 60 feet deferred? Simply, it was deferred because library shelving is ugly and expensive. Quote/unquote.

How will I fit a size 10 foot into a size 8 shoe? By doing what libraries right around the world are required to do: justify holding retention by rate of use and alternate (read: electronic) availability.

Step 1: First to go are the older series of ongoing bound journal subscriptions. Though their colourful and grand spines look wonderful on the shelves of law libraries and are integral to legal research and the practice of law, their return on library space/use can be low. So, in my case, out are all but the current series of Carswell’s Practice Cases, the Dominion Law Reports, Ontario Reports, for example. Though distasteful to do so, these materials are going into off-site storage with their continued retention pending review. The content of these publications is available and searchable via our electronic subscriptions WESTLAWeCarswell, DLR Plus and QuickLaw. Yes, questions about duplication of services arise (i.e., maintaining both print and electronic access), but I’ll deal with them once the move is over. At this stage, if a hard copy is required, it can be recalled from off-site storage within 24-hours, at a cost, or accessed by the patron traveling to another, larger library.

Step 2: Yet another weeding of texts is under way, this time with no allowance for bruised egos. Partners love to have older editions of their publications filling in-house library shelves. Well, if partners will not approve sufficient space to house the working collection, then all ‘archival’, or non-working materials must go. It is into storage, donation or recycling with the lot. Sorry folks, this is a lean, mean legal-research machine: updated editions of current holdings only, with the old edition tossed; replacement of print content when an electronic alternative becomes available, etc.

Hopefully, I will be able to shoe-horn the current collection into the reduced space allowance by employing the above mentioned methods. However, how am I to address ongoing collection growth? Steps 1 and 2 will continue ad nauseum.

Oh, the joy of my recently discovered 2004 article
Executing a library move; a planned approach to moving your library by Catherine Dimenstein in Information Outlook. It is a good read containing useful recommendations, most of which I was happy to acknowledge as ‘done’. Certainly, there are several publications available to assist in planning a library move. However, most apropos is Ms. Dimenstein’s underlining the importance of a close collaboration between librarian and architect when designing a new library to ensure that library requirements are adequately addressed.

I wish I had been more aggressive in my interactions with the Library Committee (consisting of lawyers, IT and bean-counters, all with individual veto of the librarian’s recommendations). I wish I had knocked down the doors to Building Committee meetings and communicated library requirements directly to the architect. Then, I wish I had been permitted to pass beyond the hallowed Glass Ceiling to continue the argument before the Executive Board. I wish a lot of things, especially the inspiration of how to deal with this extra stack of print material, roughly the height of a seven-story building when stacked end-on-end, that I cannot fit into my new space allowance.

An ongoing story. The postings will continue. I've started smoking and drinking a fair amount, but the bastards won’t get me down.

2 comments:

Library Blogger said...

Ok, take the materials that would go on the 60 deferred feet and leave them in boxes all around the floor, in the hall, in offices, in conference rooms, etc. Tell people that there is no where else for them. Perhaps when enough people trip over the boxes, the shelves will not seem so ugly.
Also, make sure a few of the books that are tagged for weeding are ones that people in power want to have around. They may be able to justify shelving for "their" books.

Leglib said...

We're thinking along the same lines ;-)