ACADEMICS | Two floors below ground, in the heart of the bluff, stand the majority of the physical books owned by the William H. Hannon Library
LMU students and staff rarely get the opportunity to see this space in person – unless, of course, you attend our annual Haunting of Hannon Library. Every year, the library moves approximately 12,000 books from the public areas of the library to the basement to make room for new acquisitions.
Before the William H. Hannon Library opened in 2009, we utilized an off-site facility, owned by Iron Mountain, to store thousands of low-use books. Students and staff were still able to request those items, but it usually required waiting a day or two. With everything on site now, the library can usually guarantee a two-hour turnaround on any items requested from the basement. Last year, more than 4,100 items were requested from the basement stacks.
Part of the basement stacks is arranged in what is called the “GFA.” The GFA system – named after Generation Fifth Applications the software developer – uses size rather than subject or call numbers to organize items. Books are arranged on the shelf in tote boxes that match their height and the shelves are adjusted to match the height of those tote boxes, thus maximizing the limited amount of space on each shelving column.
How much space are we saving?
Books are packed so closely together, that the largest gap between shelves in these ranges is only about 1 inch. In one “range” of shelves, GFA hosts 32,544 volumes. Prior to converting that same range to GFA, the range could only accommodate 19,655 items. So take note: if you want to maximize the space of your closet at home, organize everything by size and then adjust your shelving!
Ensuring that every book in the GFA is placed in the correct location is a time-consuming but essential process. Misplacing a book, even by a couple feet, could result in the book being lost for decades (trust us, it’s happened).
Every time a book is requested from the GFA system, no fewer than seven actions must be taken before the item can be given to the person that requested it, including a number of double-checks. Ensuring that items are removed and replaced correctly is so delicate that only student supervisors and collections management staff are permitted to process GFA requests. Everything is barcoded: the book, the tote, the shelves. “We run on barcodes,” says Collections Management Manager Rose Mendoza.
A tote of books, organized by the GFA system
Currently, there are 156,286 books in the GFA and we add approximately 40,000 books each year. Some of the new additions come from the main stacks, but many come from items that are already in the basement, but not part of the GFA system. Moving these latter items from “traditional” stacks – organized by call number or subject – into GFA exponentially increases the amount of available space we have to store materials in the future.
All of this is managed by Mendoza and the Collections Management team, consisting of three full-time employees, the department manager, and more than 40 student workers, for whom we are always grateful. Without the dedicated work of these staff and student workers, books would never be reshelved, interlibrary loan would not be possible, and nothing could be requested from the basement: the library’s physical collections would be essentially inaccessible.
Mendoza and her team are constantly walking around, identifying and resolving problems with our physical collections. She has a saying: “You touch the shelf, you fix the shelf.” Even though much of the work is behind the scenes, view the management of our collections as a public service for library users. Says Mendoza: “The building is beautiful. The view is gorgeous. The collections should be the same.”
John Jackson and Rose Mendoza wrote this post.