Growing up, one of the reasons I gravitated toward writing was because I always assumed numbers, unlike words, couldn’t tell stories. Now that I’m older, I understand that that’s not strictly true. In their own way, numbers can indeed tell a story, or paint a picture, or even cast spells. It’s true! C’mon … how many of you are made mute with excitement at the idea of winning $5,000 a week for life from Publisher’s Clearing House? If that ain’t spellcasting, I don’t know what is, folks.
So let me throw some numbers at you. Imagine a 75,000 square foot space. Like a Russian doll, inside that space is a smaller space. This smaller space includes 50,000 sound recordings, 10,000 DVD/VHS recordings, and 55,000 music scores. What do you imagine? A big pile? Granted, numbers without context can be a tad messy. The 75,000 is the total space of the Semans Library on the campus of the UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. Among its collections is the Benjamin F. Ward Music Library, a special section of the Semans that houses those mixed media mentioned earlier.
All of these items – more than 115,000 in total – needed to be organized and made available to library patrons and, of course, staff. With space at a premium, they needed to be stored smartly in such a way as to make them accessible yet safe from potential damage. With this in mind, the library’s staff turned to Patterson Pope’s Bobby Davis to help devise a solution.
A Burgeoning Music Library Collection
The library staff had a number of concerns.
- Provide students and other library visitors with access to the collection.
- Storage legacy media collections and other donated or gifted items.
As so often happens in these types of spaces, new acquisitions accumulate. After a while, the collection outgrows its original space. “Things were stacked all over the place – in offices, under tables,” said Leslie Kamtman, head of the Music Library. “We knew where everything was, but we had to get very creative about where we stored things.”
The Patterson Pope team worked with the library staff to design a storage system that was compact, yet accessible. A specially designed shelving system holds music scores, while other rail-mounted 33-foot-long Spacesaver mobile shelving units hold items like CDs, LPs and miniature scores. “This is heavy material,” said Christia Thomason, head of the Music Library’s technical services. “But even the smallest staff member can move it with ease.”
Knowledge Sharing is Key
Thomason and Kamtman offered tips for other librarians who are considering similar projects. “To some people, shelves are shelves, but they’re not,” Thomason said. Added Kamtman, “When your project is just starting out, get as many specific measurements as possible to the right person and keep checking the final documents to be sure they’re correct. Make sure you’re working with a company that understands the specific, specialized needs of your materials,” Kamtman said. “What works in the general collection doesn’t work for us.”
Numbers tell stories. Music conveys emotion. Experience teaches. In the case of libraries like the one discussed here, it’s important to remember that, like stories tend to do, collections evolve. They change and they grow. Planning for that growth is a smart move.
“Ask for more storage capacity than you think you’ll need, because you never know what future gifts are right around the corner,” said Kamtman.
Research shows… she’s right!
For more information on this project, check out the Success Story.