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What’s up with the empty shelves?!

Steam Lab LogoIf you’ve happened to visit the Teen Space at UDPL in the last few days, you were probably shocked when you saw that the shelves behind the sofa were empty. I have to admit, it does look a little worrisome – empty shelves in a library are rarely a good thing. But in this case, it actually means something wonderful!

The YA collection hasn’t been removed from the library, it’s just been relocated to a new space. Over the past month, library staff and volunteers have been “shifting” books in the non-fiction section.  This means that all of the Non-Fiction, Biography, and YA collections (including YA Fiction, YA Graphic Novels, YA Non-Fiction, and YA Audiobooks) were literally shifted backwards so that they’d all fit onto these shelves. Our circulation manager, Judy, started with the very last book in non-fiction according to its Dewey Decimal Number – This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland by Gretel Ehrlich housed on the shelf at 998.2009 – and moved it to the end of the very last shelf. Then all of the rest of non-fiction and biography were painstakingly moved to new locations. The shelves were cleaned and rearranged. Staff had to make sure that there was enough room for some of our larger books, like Sara Oldfield’s beautiful Rainforest, to stand up straight and tall.  Every single book was handled by human hands to make sure it was put in its proper place. It took a lot of hard work and dedication to complete this project. Many people helped and finally, last Wednesday, Miss Caroline, a member of the UDPL circulation staff and our two & three year old storytime leader, challenged Judy to finish by the end of the day. At 4:45pm, Caroline came to get me. They were ready to place the final book, Michele Jaffe’s Bad Kitty, on the shelf, signifying, like a golden railroad spike, that the shifting project was complete. We solemnly and ceremoniously placed the book on the shelf. We cheered, albeit quietly, and stood looking at the full shelves behind the Harry Potter poster and the empty ones back in the Teen Area. I’d like to thank all of the people – UDPL staff, volunteers, the Friends of UDPL, and everyone else who has selflessly pitched in – for their hard work. Moving thousands of books is no small feat! Thank you, thank you, thank you!Shifting Blog Photo

So that’s HOW all of the books were emptied from the shelves in the Teen Space. But WHY were they moved?

Well, they were moved in order to make a physical space for the new UDPL STEAM Lab. The empty shelves will be taken down to make way for a new work area for UDPL patrons. It’s where the STEAM Lab technology will be housed. We will be able to offer more tables for students to work on group projects and more opportunities for people to experiment with new tech tools. . There are still a lot of things that will need to be done in order to complete the STEAM Lab’s new physical space, but shifting the books to their new shelves is the one of the most important steps.

For me, the shifting of the books is a tangible illustration of how libraries are changing in the 21st century. Library spaces may sometimes need to be repurposed to better meet everyone’s needs, but this shouldn’t be a scary proposition. We will always have print books on our shelves and quiet nooks for readers to enjoy Finders Keepers, the latest Stephen King novel. (Which, by the way, is fantastic and I highly recommend you get on the waiting list to read it!) But we are also incredibly excited to offer new and different experiences for our patrons – everything from tech tutoring to digital books to 3D printing. The library is, as UDPL’s director, Cheri Fiory, likes to say, the community’s university.  It is a place where the community can come together to gain knowledge and skills. And I, for one, couldn’t be more excited about being a part of it!