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Fairfax County, Virginia

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Erin Julius,
Editor, Branch Out

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What Happens to its Collection When a Branch is Renovated?


Book Collections, Branch Renovations

By Dianne Coan, Technical Operations Division Director

With our Lorton branch reopening this fall, we wanted to explain what happens to the collection during a renovation. The move out and move in process of a library is similar to that of a home, but we also face added complexities when branches close. When dealing with books in a collection, we can’t just put it in a box marked “kitchen” or “bedroom.” To continue with the house analogy, we need to know that the forks go in the kitchen, in the drawer next to the dishwasher, to the left of the knives, and to the right of the spoons … all before the kitchen is even built. A lot of work happens behind the scenes to ensure the branch’s collection is relevant, refreshed and ready to go when a branch reopens.


When a library is renovated, we face three options for items in the collection: keep and store, keep and relocate or remove from the collection. While most items end up stored or relocated, moving is an opportunity to evaluate a branch’s collection. The collection team and branch staff review for condition, circulation, subject coverage, number of copies and many other data points when evaluating materials. While a lot of the work can be done leading up to a renovation, the branch must serve the public as long as it’s open. While a branch remains open, high demand items, such as “New” books, media, travel guides, board books and juvenile series aren’t relocated until the branch closes to the public. Once the branch is closed, we have only days until the library is turned over to construction contractors so the collection services department creates an action plan.

Closing to the public

Collection services staff members track — digitally and physically — all the items that are kept. They note whether materials go into storage, are sent to other branches or are temporarily stored centrally for redistribution. Staff labels shelves and when books are packed into boxes, those labels are affixed to the box and recorded in a spreadsheet. The boxes are put on pallets that are taken to storage. Books must be boxed and labeled so they can easily be placed in the appropriate collection area and shelving range when moving back. Knowing what moved out is technically the first step to moving back into the renovated branch, so everything is tracked. Tracking is important so we have accurate estimations both for space planning and purchasing new volumes for the collection. The materials in some collection areas, such as board books, “New” books and Hot Picks are entirely replaced when the branch reopens.

Reopening to the public

After renovation, it is time to move back! The move is handled by professional movers. Items are moved in from two different locations: the county warehouse where materials were stored and the technical operations office, which selects, receives, catalogs, processes and stores all newly acquired materials for the branch. Prior to the collection move, collection services staff members label every new shelf to indicate where movers should place the stored boxes to facilitate the merge of new and stored materials. Now is when we unload the boxes and place the materials in their areas. We often must adapt for unplanned situations at this point, shifting books to allocate space as necessary or storing items until enough shelf space is free. At any given time, an average of 20 to 25% of a branch’s collection is checked out; once the branch opens, space will become available. The last step is precisely arranging materials by call number so you can find them.

Staff at our Lorton branch can’t wait to welcome you back to a beautiful new building and refreshed collection!

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