Ice, dust and sweat: a closed week report

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By | In the Library

As certain as death and taxes, so it goes that the Wellcome Library’s annual closed week was held during a stretch of particularly glorious summer weather. Huddled away in the frigid, windowless stores and in back offices of 183 Euston Road, staff worked on several projects to improve access to and ensure the security and preservation of Library collections.

Visitors will now notice some obvious changes to the layout of the Library. Led by the Collection Management department and the Support Services team, 550 metres of books were moved to new locations. The Reading Room Annexe, which is to become part of an improved Club Room, has been emptied of its contents; these are now part of the main Reading Room collections. The biographies have a dedicated space in the area formerly known as Quick Reference. And finally, the Quick Reference materials are now located near the Copying Office. The moving team definitely earned a few Cornettos each by shifting a total of 11 tonnes of books.

The Conservation team performed first aid on 280 books from the Medical Collection. This work will help to preserve the covers and spines of many books which may be candidates for future digitisation.

Meanwhile, several members of staff donned their fleeces to work in the climate-controlled (read: teeth-chatteringly cold) stores. The image above sets the scene for this chilly tranche of work, in which more than 3000 rare books, merely a fraction of the 150,000+ rare books in our collections, were numbered and tidied.

In all, around 90% of our print collection was put in order, including 3240 Student Collection items. A knock-on effect of doing an annual stock-take is that we find many items which have been misplaced due to damaged, missing or incorrect shelfmark labels. This year, over 2000 books were relabelled, making it easier to find these books on the shelf.

Our cataloguing team worked to improve catalogue entries. Of particular note are the heavily-used Registrar-General’s reports, which can be tricky to identify due to name changes, incomplete holdings and other quirks. The holdings have now been clarified and more descriptive information has been added to the records, as shown here. These improvements will allow for easier identification by readers and retrieval staff.

The Archives and Manuscripts team had a busy week, too. Work was completed or started on 25 sub-collections of personal papers contained in the British Psychological Society collection. This project involved basic preservation work, re-housing and minor and major database amendments. The team also stock-checked 60 aisles of archival materials (around 4000 metres), 67 drawers, and 100 manuscript boxes. The papers of E C Amoroso, veterinary physiologist, are now available to the public because of work completed during the week.

In addition to collection maintenance, closed week affords us the opportunity of engaging in Library-wide training activities. All staff were trained in Library Disaster Recovery. Fingers crossed we never have to put that training to use, but in case we do, we’re all prepared to protect and preserve the collections in case of water, fire or smoke damage.

Jenn Phillips-Bacher

Jenn Phillips-Bacher

Jenn Phillips-Bacher is Web Manager at Wellcome Library, where she spends her days working on projects to improve the Library's online user experience. Jenn studied Medieval History and Italian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and then went on to become a librarian. She can be found on LinkedIn and Tumblr.

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