Preparations have begun to close the University of Virginia’s central Alderman Library for a significant renovation and expansion. Part of this renovation will mean that the stacks of the library will be demolished. 


That means 1.7 million books and materials are being moved from Alderman to nearby Clemons Library or the Ivy Stacks, the off-site shelving facility located a mile from central Grounds.


By call number order, books going to Clemons were moved first. The rest of the items are headed to the Ivy Stacks, most of which will be returned to Alderman after renovation.


The books are put into open cardboard boxes called “trays” with the call numbers and corresponding bar codes visible for scanning and shelving.


When the books are arranged in the trays and scanned, they are packed into 5-cubic-foot stackable crates for moving. The crew has 550 crates in use at any one time.


This series documents the process that is underway to relocate library materials and do the first comprehensive survey of the collection in decades.

UVA is a designated federal depository library which means they must retain federal documents. Today, many documents are released online instead of in print, and the demand for the older physical documents isn’t as high as it used to be. Printed government documents are being moved to Ivy Stacks.

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David Scott of Backstage Library Works selects a section of books in a particular call number as part of the process of moving them out of Alderman.

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Jackson D’Errico of Backstage Library Works scans books in the process of moving them out of Alderman Library.

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Orange bins are moved down the elevator to be trucked off to other locations. Most never to return to this library.

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Stacks of orange crates are wheeled out of the stacks toward waiting trucks. 

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A section of the Alderman stacks that has been cleared of books.

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Loading the crates into a truck that will relocate them. 

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Books arriving in Clemons library are placed into a sorting area while staff work to shelve them in the moveable shelving that has been placed there. 

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Books and materials that are considered high-use and circulate regularly have been moved to Clemons Library’s reopened first floor, renovated last year to accommodate about 500,000 volumes with the installation of movable shelves and more study spaces.

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Crates that were not unloaded at Clemons are unloaded at Ivy Stacks, an off Grounds book repository. 

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The workers push carts of crates and boxes from the outer offices into the vast shelving room, where the cool air brings relief compared to the hot summer day outside. The optimum temperature for books to live in is about 55 degrees.

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Items stored in the Ivy Stacks include some that have never been checked out or haven’t circulated for decades.

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Matt Harmon, library coordinator, works in the lift to shelve books.

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Steve Bartlett, the stacks manager, pilots the lift through the stacks. 

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The shelving lift drives down the aisle to deposit another tray of books. 

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Steve Bartlett, the stacks manager, drives the lift down the aisle as it rises nearly fifty feet in the air. 

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After shelving trays of books, their new location must be scanned into the Virgo system.

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Ivy Stacks is described online as “a high-density storage and retrieval facility.” It holds more than 1 million books and other materials. It was expanded in 2017, doubling its storage space in anticipation of the Alderman renovation. This is a view down one of the now nearly full aisles. 

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Alderman stacks now sit quiet and empty with the books removed. 

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