What happens when you run out of space?
It's a fair question: the Poetry Center now has more than 50,000 books. When I hear it, I'm usually cheerful, but vague: We're working on that! We're planning for that!
I am enormously pleased to say that this year, our plans to create more space for books are about to become a reality. With grant support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, along with generous help from the University of Arizona Libraries, we will install a new shelving system in our Archives room this winter. The new shelving system, supplied by Phoenix-based firm Interior Solutions, will give us space to house the next 15-20 years of library acquisitions. To complete this major installation, we will close the library to the public in the break between the fall and spring semesters: the library will be closed to visitors from Dec. 17-Jan. 21.
The Poetry Center adds about 1200 books to our collections every year, and we keep everything we acquire. As the collection grows, the space on our shelves shrinks. You can see the effect of a decade's worth of book-buying in the photos below:
The photo on top was taken by Robert Reck in 2008. I took the bottom photo in November 2019. You'll notice how full the top and bottom shelves have become in the intervening years. Meanwhile, the shelves in our closed-stack Archives room have filled up, too:
We keep a number of books in Archives, primarily books that are too small or fragile to tolerate the extra wear and tear of the public shelves in the Reading Room. For example, many of our chapbooks are housed in Archives. We can give many of our books a longer life by storing them in this dark, climate-controlled, secure space--but everything in the Archives room is available to the public on request.
The new shelving system will be installed in the Archives room. It's a "high-density mobile system": the new shelves will be packed close together and mounted on rails. Library staff will be able to move the rails apart for access using a hand crank. By packing shelves close together in this way, we'll be able to substantially increase the shelving space available in the Archives room.
To install the system, we'll partner with a team from the University of Arizona Libraries to move all our collection items out of Archives and into temporary storage in the Reading Room. This is why we need to close: with all the Archives collections stored in the reading room, there will be no place to sit down! Interior Solutions will install the new shelves, and then the UAL team will move collection items back into Archives. We are enormously grateful to Hayri Yildirim, Michael Mayer, Hasan Sanli, and their teams from UAL, as well as to Scott Fero and the whole team at Interior Solutions. Their expertise will help the entire process go quickly and smoothly.
We'll be busy behind the scenes in the library during the month we are closed. We look forward to re-opening in January with space to grow in the new decade!
The Poetry Center thanks the University of Arizona Libraries and the National Endowment for the Humanities for support and partnerships that make this project possible.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.