Though the marble exterior of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library may suggest tranquility, a book’s cover does not always reveal its contents. The library is currently involved in a flurry of preparation work in advance of its 16-month-long renovation.
In the months leading up to the library’s closure in May, all books and archival materials must be moved to secure locations. Beinecke staff will move to Sterling Memorial Library and office space at 344 Winchester Ave., and a temporary HVAC unit will be installed on Beinecke Plaza. The library is currently on schedule for all of these tasks and recently reached a major milestone in the preparations. In late January, the last of 19 bulk shipments of rare archived material comprising approximately 9,500 linear feet in total — with 10 books per linear foot — was sent to the Yale Library Shelving Facility in Hamden. Still, there is much more work to be done.
“It’s a little daunting — we’re moving thousands of feet of material and books, more than 100 staff out and then closing down,” Beinecke Director E.C. Schroeder said. “And at the same time, we’re still doing what we normally do.”
Since April 2014, Beinecke has been moving books and archival material from its basement and the glass stack tower to the LSF. Matthew Beacom, the head of the library’s technical services, said about half of Beinecke staff were involved with this stage of renovation preparations.
Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts Tim Young said in an email that curators are helping to direct where these materials will be located, based on criteria such as their physical format and how researchers use them.
Schroeder said the 19 bulk shipments to the LSF included some of Beinecke’s most heavily used collections, including the papers of Gertrude Stein and Langston Hughes.
The scope of the renovation is broad. It includes the replacement of the building’s HVAC system, upgrades to fire suppression and detection utilities and the addition of new classrooms.
Approximately 90 percent of the material that needs to be moved out has already left the Beinecke building, Schroeder said. Oddly sized and particularly delicate material, such as the Papyrus Collection, will be moved to the LSF over the next few months, Preservation Coordination Librarian Rebecca Hatcher said. Hatcher, who oversaw the effort to move the material, added that this is approximately 2,000 linear feet of material.
Schroeder said material must be moved out of the basement to make room for corridors for workmen, as well as the materials from the glass stack tower. Hatcher said the next major project on the horizon at the Beinecke is the movement of the remainder of the books — approximately 11,000 linear feet — from the tower to the basement. This process will occur in April and early May.
Young said library staff will also be taking materials, books and files related to current projects with them when they move out of the Beinecke. Library staff members are currently packing up their offices, he added.
Schroeder said staff will move in two major waves. In early April, about half of Beinecke’s staff will move to 344 Winchester Ave. The rest of the staff, including curators, will move to Sterling Memorial Library and other locations on campus in late April and early May.
One other aspect of the preparations is ensuring that Beinecke can effectively cater to students, faculty and researchers, Schroeder said. Beinecke staff are making regular announcements on the library website about the availability of collections, and researchers are encouraged to contact the library in advance about material they want to study, he said.
“We’re trying to make as many of collections available during renovation as possible,” he said.
Schroeder said that because a large number of the Beinecke’s holdings are now at LSF, students and faculty will notice a change in the time it takes to retrieve materials. Books that used to be available in 10 to 15 minutes upon request may now take 24 to 48 hours to deliver because they are no longer housed at Beinecke itself.
During the renovation, Beinecke’s Gutenberg Bible will be on display at the Yale University Art Gallery.