Managing space and spatial verification
A crucial mission of an institution as physically vast as the Bibliothèque de Genève, whose collections are spread over several locations, is managing that space efficiently. The Building administration and General collections units are in charge of carrying out that mission. The work entails organizing the storage shelves so as to optimize and rationalize the space where library items are conserved. It means storing the collections according to different criteria, for example, the space available, the kinds of shelves, the characteristics of the item’s packaging, the climate conditions.
The conservation sites comprise several buildings that were constructed in different periods. It is the reason why the storage areas offer a great range of configurations and climate characteristics. And even inside the storage, the shelves are just as varied, viz., wood or metal, stationary or mobile, of normal height or reaching high up. Working with the library’s technical units in these spaces, the staff plan out the kinds of movements the collections will probably undergo, e.g., additions (donations, long-term loans, acquisitions), consolidating volumes on the shelves to improve storage and reorganize the empty spaces), or (re)packaging the item, that is, the operations designed to materially protect library items with folders or cases adapted to the items and conforming to the international norms of conservation. Such operations often mean that the collections quite simply measure more linearly. That is of course a decisive element in managing shelf space, but one that also renders this mission all the more complex since all spaces are close to saturation. These operations cannot be carried out without one indispensable tool for managing space intelligently and effectively, i.e., verifying the existing physical space and its contents. This involves making a complete and accurate accounting of the conserved collections and their exact location. That is, a precise, exhaustive and continuous inventory of the “packaged” material units, site by site, space by space, shelf by shelf.