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Stack Management-Marston Science Library: Book Shifting

Book Shifting

When shifting books we typically allow for 5-8 years of growth, but you should always try to allow for as many years as possible. One way to go about this is to simply find out how much empty space you have and allow for the same amount on every shelf. If you do this, you should check with each of the subject selectors to find out if any of their subject areas are growing faster than expected. If they are, allow for more growth room in these areas.

A more precise way of determining the amount of space needed is by looking at the current shelf and noting how many inches of growth the shelf has had in the last 5 years. This is more difficult for books than it is for periodicals because all of the more recent volumes may not be together on the shelf. You can estimate the amount of growth by noting the average width of books on that shelf and then counting the number of new books from the past 5 years and multiplying. You should record these shelf by shelf as it will make your planning go more smoothly later in the process.

Recording Your Measurements

If you have chosen to use the more detailed space planning option above, use the form linked below for recording your space. The first two lines have been filled in as examples.

On this form, you are recording

  1. Call Number or Call Number Range
  2. Estimate for Growth- This should be based on how much space the past (x- number of years you are planning for, usually 5) years have taken up. Make sure you plan for the same number of years for every area.
  3. Row Number- This will help you to get a general idea of where space is needed on the floor once you start adding up the numbers.

Determining Your Space

  • The first step in making a shifting plan is to determine the amount of space you have. To do this for books you
    1. Add up the total number of inches currently taken by books on the floor (this does not include your growth estimates). This process will take a while as there will be many pages of numbers to add up. Make sure to double check your work as these numbers will affect every other part of the shift.
      • Another way to do this step is to measure the empty space on all of the shelves. Once again, you must be very careful to check your math here because it will impact every other aspect of the shift.
    2. Add up the total number of inches estimated for growth.
    3. Add up the total number of inches of shelving available for the materials to be housed on. Each shelf is 35.5” long and most units are 7 shelves high.
    4. Add: Total Current Inches (can be found by subtracting the empty space from the total space)+ Total Estimated Growth Inches = Current Amount
    5. Subtract: Total Inches of Available Shelving (Determined in Step 3) - Current Amount = Amount Available for Growth (in Inches)
    6. Divide: Amount Available for Growth / Number of Shelves (Determined in Step 3) = Number of Inches Per Shelf for Growth
    7. An ideal number of inches to have for Number of Inches Per Shelf for Growth is 9 or more. This would mean that there is a quarter of each shelf that is empty. If you have less than this you may want to consider building new rows of shelving if possible.  Another possibility is weeding some of the materials that are seldom used. Either of these options need to be discussed with Collection Management before a decision can be made.
    8. If you have more than 9, feel free to use some of the extra space to place a couple of extra blank shelves in each row to allow for error. This is a better option than simply dividing this extra space up between all of the shelves.

Planning Your Shift

The shift plan is a grid system. In each box of the grid, you write down the first call number and volume that will be housed on that shelf. You then follow in the next box will the first call number on that shelf. You continue this going from top to bottom, left to right. When you are done you should have one sheet per row for every row to be shifted. Shifting grids are linked below. Make sure to mark out boxes on the grid where structural columns are on the floors. If you forget to do this, then you will end up filling more shelves on the plan than exist on the floor. 

You determine what call number will go on each shelf by measuring 35.5 inches and accounting for growth space. Therefore you would measure 27 inches ideally for a shelf where you can leave 9 inches of growth space and there is no added growth space needed. When you have filled 27 inches, write down the first call number that falls after this as the first call number for the next shelf. If 5 extra inches of growth room are needed on the next shelf then measure out 22 inches and write the next books after that as the first of the next shelf, so on and so forth.

The process of making a shifting plan is very detailed and when you are done ANYONE should be able to determine where the books should be placed.

In general, it usually takes about 1.5 -2 hours to plan 2 rows of books on 12 x 7 rows. Usually, the most efficient way to do this is to go through and slightly pull out the books that will be the first on their shelf, then go through and write them all down. This is more efficient than pulling and writing at the same time and is also helpful if you have two people working on the plan at the same time.

Implementing A Shift

This part of the process should require the least amount of thought. Once your shifting grid is complete you should be able to begin shifting. The key to starting this process is to figure out where the majority of your space is and start shifting on that end. If you start where you will run out of space quickly you will need to house some materials elsewhere while completing the shift on that section. Try to make sure that materials are displaced for the shortest amount of time possible. There is usually some point near the middle of every shift where books need to be placed on carts to wait for shelves to free up. Don't worry, this is normal.

As you go along it is sometimes helpful to go down a row and pull out the first book of each row slightly so that you do not have to consistently refer to the grid as you are actively moving books. Just make sure not to forget growth shelves where necessary!

One other quirk of shifting is the approximately 2 rows of extra space that appear towards the end of every shift. This is very common and do not feel that you planned poorly if this happens. No matter how well you plan this seems to happen to everyone. You should be happy that you have more space to work with rather than less! You should spread these extra shelves out as much as possible. In the most recent shift of the 4th floor (2008) we had 3 extra shelves per row to work with and these were placed on the top shelf about every 5 columns.

Shifting Notes:

  • Left align all shelves. All titles need to be pushed to the far left of the shelf.
  • Do NOT separate titles! It’s tempting when there are multiple series in a row and sometimes makes sense that the titles should be separated but doing this:
    • Breaks the reading flow. It’s harder to read call numbers when there are spaces separating them.
    • Uses a lot of bookends.
  • Rule of thumb: 1 bookend per shelf. This forces you to left align the entire shelf as well as prevent the separation of titles.
  • Keep growth moving forward. Most titles are situated so that the addition of volumes is added at the end of the title. Do not shift the title back to make room. Also remember that some titles are situated so that they run into another title on the next shelf. Just make sure that the growth moves forward.

Finishing Touches

End Panel Labels

The last step (and a step that should be taken as you are going along) is making end panel labels so that is easy to identify what call number range is located down each aisle.

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