AHC’s Toppan Library: Moving Toward Improvement

Behind the scenes at the archives, it’s bustling and constantly moving. That’s the case more than ever as we move materials from the Toppan Rare Books Library into one consolidated space. It’s the biggest physical move of our collections to take place since relocating into the Centennial Complex 25 years ago.

And this is only part of it! There were many books to move from the Toppan Library to their new home in the book vault. The Library will now be a teaching space and display space featuring Toppan Library treasures.

When we began this project in early January, moving 950 cubic feet of books from the existing library into the already half-full book vault seemed daunting. Would it all fit? Would it be an improvement to the current system? What troubles would we run into along the way? We had many questions but, with an excellent team, we put our heads together and launched the project.

As the project manager and a full-time UW student majoring in business marketing and management, I had a full plate. I’d been at the AHC for three years, learning the ropes of the archive and immersing myself in a field of work very different from my area of study. I was eager to gain experience from spearheading this book move project; merging my two areas of interest. I was thrilled to dive into the collection and see all it had to offer. I saw the wide range of subject matter, various printing and binding techniques and, most impressive to me, the vast history embedded in each book, all while applying skills of project management I’d developed in my degree path.

The first step was to create a detailed inventory of the existing collections located in both the book vault and the Toppan Library to begin planning the logistics of the move and evaluating the physical space available. From there it was a matter of clearing as many carts as possible to be able to safely transport books down one floor and across the building into their new homes. We soon realized that the movable compact shelving, which maximizes space by eliminating aisles between rows, only allowed us to open one range at a time. This proved to be our biggest hurdle as we sought to maximize efficiency as we re-shelved books.

AHC employee Ashley Dewey hard at work in the book vault, April 2020.

Within the first month of the book move project, we hosted one university-related photoshoot in the ever-changing library, accommodated four class visits, and successfully rehoused 40 collections to new shelves in the vault. During the whole move process, the library collections have been accessible to the public too. As I said, constantly bustling.

Now that we are more than halfway finished with the move, the path to the end of the project is clearer than ever. We have successfully moved 75 collections with just a few remaining cabinets in the library to be emptied. Managing this project has been a whirlwind full of learning experiences and further skill development for me. I even think I got a little stronger moving all these books! We’re excited to have a better-organized system and one cohesive space dedicated to the specific needs of the Toppan Rare Book collection.

– Post by Emily Hakert, AHC Archives Aide and Book Move Manager

Emily Hakert is a senior at the University of Wyoming, and has worked extensively with the AHC’s Anaconda Geological Documents Collection, and also in rare books as a part-time employee. Based on her strong knowledge of AHC collections, and project management skills, she was promoted to Book Move Manager in January in order to plan, coordinate, and oversee this important project. She oversees two additional part-time employees as part of the book move team.


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