Libraries often serve as de facto archives for their communities. Here’s how faculty and staff designed spaces to protect and preserve special collections in a campus library.
Like many colleges and universities, Hood College has a rich history and holds precious memories for students, faculty, and staff. Unfortunately, though, the institution lacked a centralized and accessible place to store the physical objects associated with those historic events and everyday campus life.
“We outgrew the designated space.”
– Toby Peterson, Library Director
Because the existing archives storage area was too small to store the growing collections, objects were stored where staff could find space. “This meant artifacts were often stored in attics or in closets where they couldn’t be enjoyed by library users,” said Mary Atwell, Archivist and Collection Development Services Librarian.
Boxes and banners were accumulating in closets, offices, and work areas.
Space was wasted above cabinets.
When the college received funding to renovate the library’s interior, Atwell and Peterson recognized an opportunity to advocate for a dedicated storage space for special collections and a secure workroom for supporting student interns’ experiential learning. “I was hopeful for a dedicated archive where we could consolidate collections into a more functional space,” Atwell said.
“Academic libraries can have overlap in their collections, but a library’s special collections are often what makes it truly unique.”
– Mary Atwell, Archivist and Collection Development Services Librarian
The Baltimore-based Spacesaver consultant visited the library to look at the space and learn more about the collections. “She had knowledge of libraries and archives and she took the time to listen to our needs,” Peterson said. “She measured our collections, toured our space, and quickly presented a plan to address our current preservation needs while also allowing for future growth.”
Together they designed a workroom and a collections storage area that protects materials, provides convenient access to stored items, and offers room for the collection to grow as time goes by.
“The quality of Spacesaver’s product is only outdone by the quality of their people.”
-Library Director Toby Peterson
A wall-mounted art rack stores framed art.
Compactors optimize space and provide room to grow.
Every year, the graduating class presents a banner to the college. The banners are stored on Spacesaver’s rolled textile racks.
Framed art and plaques are stored on 4-Post shelving fitted with dividers.
To fully optimize space, the planning team chose to have Spacesaver’s museum trays installed in shelving units. This solution is called the Nantucket system, and it’s a cost-effective way to store items that don’t need to be enclosed in a sealed cabinet. It also provides customizable and reconfigurable space for 3-D object storage above the trays.
Now the college has plenty of room to preserve and protect items in its special collections area. Student interns can even gain hands-on experience in processing items and performing other archival tasks. The archive supports engaging classes with materials from the library’s special collections.
Spacesaver’s in-person design assistance and ability to manufacture a wide variety of collections storage equipment was key to the project’s success, Peterson said. “We’ve been a customer of Spacesaver for many years, so we already knew the product was excellent,” he said. “We really wanted to deal with a company that would stand behind their product, and the local consultants were outstanding.”
Libraries don’t always have room to store archives and special collections, but Spacesaver can help. Contact us to get connected to your nearby Spacesaver museum consultant, who can offer space-planning assistance, detailed product information, and answers to all your questions. There’s no cost and no obligation, so contact us today.