Mapping the changes: Topography on the move

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Last week the Library saw a flurry of activity in the Back Stacks as our Collection Care team moved more than 36 metres of Topography volumes to a new location at the far side of the store. It is part of series of measures that we will be implementing this year to improve the housing of our open access collections.  By The London Library’s Head of Collection Care, Judith Finnamore.

In its former location, the Topography folio series had been subject to a dearth of deep shelving. Many books were overhanging the edge of their shelves by quite some length, rendering them unstable and at risk of being knocked, or even falling. Some other volumes had ended up being stored on their fore-edge. Each time one of these books was retrieved, some abrasion would occur along the edge of the binding, eventually wearing away the leather, cloth or paper cover that had been protecting – and decorating – the boards. Over time, the weight of the book’s pages would have caused them to become distorted and, in a worst case scenario, led to the whole textbook to dropping and detaching from the spine. It was time to take action!

Three busy days of measuring and re-pitching shelves, loading and wheeling trollies, amending shelfmarks and reshelving some extremely heavy books has resulted in a new and improved area for our largest topographical volumes. ‘Extra large’ tomes now benefit from being accommodated on an extra deep shelf, where they are properly supported and, as a result, easier and safer to retrieve and shelve. The move has also given us the opportunity to address areas of congestion, creating pockets of space into which the collections can expand.

We’re really pleased with the new series we’ve created, but we won’t be resting on our laurels. Work is ongoing to repair or rebind our most fragile Topography books, and the team will soon be moving back our quarto titles onto the vacant shelves where the folios used to be. Again, the aim will be to have better-housed books and to relieve tightly-packed areas of shelving, resulting in more space for our collections to grow and flourish in future.

Congested shelf before the move

Congested shelf with overhanging books

Overhanging books in the former sequence

Folio and extra large Topography volumes in their new sequence

Part of the new extra large folio series