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Major Collection Moves Completed at Washington University Libraries

The Washington University Libraries launched a collection space management project called the Great Olin Shift in March 2020. Designed to alleviate overcrowded shelves in John M. Olin Library, the project was almost immediately put on hold due to COVID-19 and related closures at Washington University. 

University Libraries staff went back to the drawing board and revised the original project plan, incorporating a new endeavor called the STEM Libraries Reprogramming Initiative. Through that initiative, in spring 2020, the University Libraries partnered with Arts & Sciences to reimagine library services in the Physics, Chemistry, and Earth & Planetary Sciences library locations to better accommodate user needs. All physical collection materials housed in the three libraries were slated to be moved to John M. Olin Library.

To create a roadmap for the moves, Collections Services staff compiled data on existing collection footprints and projected growth rates. The project relaunched in fall 2020. It was broken up into several stages and involved many moving parts

In Olin Library, history materials moved from Level 3 to Level B, and the German Literature and Children’s Literature collections moved from Level B to Level A. Collections on Level B were shifted to accommodate about 80,000 volumes from the STEM libraries. To date, approximately 361,000 volumes have been shifted (the equivalent of about nine miles of shelves).

As part of the project, 55 map cases of various sizes were moved to Olin from the Earth & Planetary Sciences Library, which is located in Rudolph Hall on Washington University’s Danforth Campus. During the move, it was discovered that one large case had been walled in when the building was remodeled. In the end, a power lift was used to safely extricate the case.

The moves were completed in February 2021. Over the next few months, Collections Services staff will interfile STEM materials in Olin Library and the West Campus library and then shift books in Olin, so that they are evenly distributed on each level. 

The Great Olin Shift has improved user access and enabled the University Libraries to allocate space for future collection growth. The project also dovetailed with strategic planning efforts that focus on long-term collection space management.