Anatomy of recarpeting a library

Last week, our biggest library was recarpeted and repainted and I was part of the moving team.  Narre Warren Library is a 1300 sq mt building, comprising the library, a meeting room, family history space, local history archive, workroom, staffroom, foyer and amenities – the majority of which had to be emptied to allow the makeover to happen.  Apart from some recarpeting around the circulation desk a few years ago, this was the first makeover in the building’s 16 year history.

The moving team comprised 6 core staff, including myself, who worked full-time (or close to it) from Sunday night to Friday afternoon, in varying shifts, ranging from 7am to 3pm, to 1pm to 9pm.  A further 4-6 staff were involved in big moving times and on the last 2 days when we were getting everything back on shelves and into place.  A contract company was hired to assist with heavy moving of shelving and boxes, but the majority of the work was done by the library team.

Over the course of 5 1/2 days, we moved 60,000 items, much of that in boxes and their shelving, twice.  The first move was half of the library’s collection, packed into the other half. Sunday night we began after closing by moving the children’s and young adult areas, whose shelving was on castors.  We then also boxed up and moved the AV collections, magazines, genre fiction, adult fiction and large print collections, as well as the shelving they used and all the furniture that comprised those areas.  Took a few hours, but was fairly straightforward, especially as we were able to just roll some of the shelving, still fully stocked, out of the way. This was the easy part.

Monday was an early start, for all involved.  The painters and carpeters started their work, whilst the moving team started packing up the reference and non-fiction collections we could reach between boxes and shelving.  It took all of Monday for the old carpet to be ripped up on that side of the library, so laying the new carpet didn’t happen until Tuesday.  We were concerned that this would put a big dint in our plans for reopening to the public on Saturday, but were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at 1pm on Tuesday to find that they carpeters had nearly finished and that we were able to start moving things back across to that side of the library.  Which we did.  We finished boxing up non-fiction and moved all 60,000 items, boxes and shelving across to the newly carpeted side of the library.

Wednesday was another early start, with the library team starting to reshelve large print and fiction, whilst the other half of the library was recarpeted and painted.  This left the last 2 days to do the final moving of everything back into place and onto shelves, in preparation for Saturday reopening.

Thursday morning was another early start, but within a couple of hours we had all the non-fiction and reference shelving back in place and it was the start of a major haul, with all hands on deck, to get everything back on shelf and in place throughout the library by Friday evening.

Add to this the fact that we were accepting returns and phone calls from patrons who weren’t aware of the closure and that our daily courier run from other libraries was still happening, there was a lot to still manage in terms of circulation.  So apart from the moving team, we had 2 staff on desk and were open to the public (at least to the edge of the desk), from 10am to 5pm each day.  Amazing how many people, even on seeing the chaos that was the library during this time, asked if they could come in and use the internet, or find a book etc.

Only adding to the interesting times we were experiencing was the opportunity we were taking to tweak some of the collection arrangements.  Although most of the shelving was going back to its original location, some wasn’t and would need to be recreated and reorganised as we started reshelving.  We were also changing some shelving arrangements, including totally redoing adult fiction and large print and changing the sequence of non-fiction.  All to give a better flow for the collections and all for the benefit of our users. Nothing like a bit of spice to keep us on our toes!

So Thursday had the shelving back in place, reference and the adult collections in place and the beginnings of non-fiction reshelved.  New shelving had been creating from the skeletons of old and new homes had been found for our Italian and Basic English collections.

Which left Friday to bring it all together.  Which we did. The last book was reshelved in non-fiction at 2.35pm (not bad as most of the staff were working 7am to 3pm that day).  The last 1/2 hour was spent moving the last of the shelving into place – AV and childrens etc, getting the furniture back in place and then leaving the remaining staff to clear the desk area of its boxes, trolleys and more, ready to reopen on Saturday.

So that was the process.  You can check out the photos on Flickr for a fuller account of proceedings and for a better idea of the size of the job. However, I wanted this blog post to be more than a reflection on the work that was done.  So here goes.

I would highly recommend that any library who wants to do some team building, do a recarpeting project like this. The 6 of us on the main carpeting team, had a wonderful time working together all week.  We all worked very hard, doing exhausting work (the last minor aches disappeared by Monday), working unusual shifts and had an absolute ball doing so.  We had a great team of people, both the core team and the extended team, who were determined to make it happen.  We bonded in a way we couldn’t doing normal library work for several reasons I believe, including – spending so much dedicated time together, being away from the public and the demands they make, being able to be more relaxed and more ourselves as a result of that and also because we genuinely liked and respected our team mates before we started the project.

We were able to share the achievements (applause and much congratulations once the last book was in place), the amusements and the mishaps.  Amusements included finding a 1945 penny in a building only 16 years old and under one bay of shelving finding a fruit tingle, a tic tac, a mint and a nail file (someone’s secret stash!!!).  The mishaps included various cuts from various tools and accessories, including scissors, utlity knives, table legs, tape dispensers and the ultimate of an attack by a drawing pin, which jumped out from a display board and got entrapped in the wild hair of one of our team.

Extra weekend staff helped clear the boxed up backlog from the courier, as well as dealing with the enthusiastic library users who poured through the doors, although it will take several weeks to get the stock reorganised on shelves properly, as we were in such a hurry to get reshelved that we ended up with very full shelves in most cases, but with room to expand into unused bays.

However, it has been all worthwhile as the library is looking great and the feedback from users has been overwhelmingly positive.

From my point of view, the week was a roaring success.  We achieved our goal of getting it all done in 5 days (I’m so task oriented) and was able to do so in good company.  I learned a bit about myself and a lot about my workmates, which has given me greater respect for them personally and professionally.  I am really happy that our users are taking to the new look and shelving changes well, as it adds that nice bit of icing to the cake.

It was a physically taxing week, but I am more than happy to be involved in such a project again if it ever arises, because it was fun.  They say a change is as good as a holiday and I couldn’t have done much different work that usual in this week, but would be happy to do it again, as long as its only periodic – I couldn’t do it everyday!


    • Gemma Siemensma on December 2, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Gosh – just exhausting reading all about it! Sounds like a super effort and the pics look great.

  1. Thanks Gemma, it was definitely exhausting. Loved keeping track it via photos – thanks for checking them out!

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