Preparations are fully underway for a major renovation of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library — a venture that will cost $70 million and require the library to close from May 2015 to September 2016.
The scope of the renovation is broad. It includes the replacement of the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, upgrades to fire suppression and detection utilities and the addition of new classrooms. In preparation for the construction work, all of the Beinecke’s books must be moved to secure locations — a process that has already begun, with the first of 18 bulk collections of material shipped this week to Yale’s library shelving facility in Hamden, Conn. Meanwhile, designs for the new classrooms, as well as for a staff office space at Science Park, are in the midst of being finalized.
“The entire planning effort has representatives from every area of the Beinecke, from curatorial to the folks who help bring in the books,” said Timothy Young, curator of modern books and manuscripts and member of several committees involved with the renovation.
Young said the most daunting part of the preparations is coordinating the movement of the books and archives to secure locations. Beinecke Director E.C. Schroeder said the library’s entire six-story tower must be cleared before renovations begin.
The Hamden shelving facility will house approximately 120,000 books from the Beinecke. Schroeder said shipments will be delivered to the facility every two weeks until the end of 2014.
An additional collection of books will be stored in the Beinecke’s basement stacks. According to Schroeder, a temporary HVAC system will be installed in the basement in December to ensure a suitable storage environment for the books.
Due to the relocation of the Beinecke’s holdings, access to certain collections will be limited for six to eight weeks. After they are moved, 24 to 48 hours will be required to retrieve cetain books for a student or researcher.
“Some of these books might be the only copy in the world, so we have to make sure that once it goes out to the secondary place we know exactly where it is on the shelf,” Young explained.
Schroeder said staff members are making an effort to reduce the inconvenience to researchers by providing advance notice as to when collections will be unavailable. Additionally, he said, the Beinecke is working with graduate students who have received Beinecke fellowships to ensure that they will be able to access the collections they need for their dissertations.
Young said one of the main aims of the renovation is to improve experiences for students and professors who use the library’s classrooms. Renovation committees are currently finalizing floor plans for two new classrooms to be developed in spaces that were previously used as offices.
According to Schroeder, one classroom will be a teaching laboratory where students can work with the “material culture of things,” such as ink and parchment. Young said the new classrooms, as well as the four existing ones, will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology — some of which could be useful for online teaching initiatives.
The other major part of the Beinecke’s project currently in development is the Winchester Avenue office space located at Science Park. Young said the University has designated some “raw space” in its complex of buildings — which was formerly a rifle factory before it was purchased by Yale several years ago — for the Beinecke to construct new offices.
All employees currently in the Beinecke will have move to other locations next year, shortly before the start of the major renovations. Young said the majority of staff members will temporarily utilize the Science Park office space, while about a quarter will move to Sterling Library. The library’s technical services department, however, will move permanently to the Science Park offices.
“The Beinecke has over one hundred staff,” Schroeder said. “If had the space I would keep everyone on-site, but the building was not designed with that many staff in mind.”
Schroeder said the move has its benefits, as it will consolidate staff currently working in four locations — the Beinecke, the library shelving facility, Sterling Library and a satellite office on Whitney Avenue — in one location. The office space at Science Park will also be custom-designed, Young said, adding that the construction for these offices will begin in June 2014.
Preservation Coordination Librarian and Registrar Rebecca Hatcher, who will be one of the librarians permanently moving to Science Park, said the new location will allow for greater flexibility and space. She added that the renovation planning efforts have been stressful for Beinecke staff, who still must carry out their daily jobs as well.
To reduce the strain on Beinecke employees, acquisitions will be halted for one year starting in July. Young said the funds that would have been allotted to acquisitions next year will be frozen, possibly to be used in the coming years for larger acquisitions or projects.
Schroeder said he is confident that the labor-intensive planning efforts would ultimately pay off.
“One of the big-picture goals of the renovation is to ensure that we have the right environment for preserving the books and manuscripts that are at the Beinecke while making the collections more widely available,” he said.
The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library was originally gifted to the University in 1963.