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Founded in the 16th century, the Royal College of Surgeons has been shaping the British healthcare sector for over four centuries and has evolved into a body that has defined the medical field by training, supporting and examining surgeons and auditing clinical effectiveness in the UK.
To move 6000 linear metres of books and folios from the Library at Lincoln’s Inn Fields to The National Archives at Kew, The London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell and the British Library in Boston Spa, Yorkshire. The entire RCS collection was catalogued so that staff knew where each book was throughout the process, before being packed and transported without affecting the Library’s operations.
Library relocations are part of our specialist field of removals, so when we were contacted, by the RCS, to help them, we couldn’t wait to get started. During such projects we employ particular methods for transporting large volumes of books safely, as well as caring for larger and rarer tomes which can present handling challenges due to their fragility.
The books had to be packed and moved whilst the Library remained open, with the public and surgeons maintaining access to the material. All books had to be moved in a library class order with specialist packing, crating and barcoding systems, custom built to the RCS’s specifications.
A unique element of the project was that most of the books in the RCS collection are considered rare as they are signed by the surgeons who wrote them; the collection also included one-of-a-kind, extremely rare books and elephant folios which needed to be wrapped in acid free tissue paper and tape to ensure that the paper and binding remained in its original condition.
Over an intensive seven month period, we provided a devoted and highly specialist team to help the RCS Library pack and move many of their books to their two London locations as well as carefully and securely transporting the majority of items to an additional site in Yorkshire, making way for a new state of the art building which will be completed in three years’ time.
Before this hugely important and complex relocation could begin, every item was given a unique barcode and recorded on to a master inventory, so that it could be easily located at a moment’s notice, at any stage in the process, and retrieved if needed. Once this detailed process was complete, the physical transfer could take place.
Our trained and skilled Library relocation teams removed over 5km of books off the shelves and packed them in crates lined with bespoke materials including foam blocks, foam wedges and anti-static bubble wrap to reduce movement whilst in transit. Protective blankets were used for added safety.
The project presented us with a series of challenges due to the fact that there were several other contractors working alongside us as part of the site’s changes. This made access to many of the areas we required difficult, so in order to be time efficient and maintain Health and Safety standards we designed and built a platform bridge leading from the basement, which allowed us to move all our packed crates over a walled area and into our designated holding area where they could be prepared for loading. An important part of our methods was the loading schedule, with every crate requiring to be placed in our vehicles in a specific order so that the first crate offloaded from the lorry was always the first one packed, which meant that the unpacking team could re-shelve every book in the appropriate order at their new sites.
The project was programmed into four phases so that all books could be gradually relocated to their new sites, under the right climate conditions, so that access to the collection was not prohibited to medical staff.
During this time our dedicated team integrated itself into the library’s operations in order to complete the cataloguing and packing, meet their access needs and make the relocation as seamless and unobtrusive as possible, which was one of our key aims throughout this project.
All moving schedules were allocated a pre-determined amount of books to pack and move each day and by ensuring that we kept to our targets we met all the deadlines set by RCS and completed the project on time and on budget.
Whilst on site we were also asked to carry out a clearance of legacy furniture which we donated to charity ensuring 100% diversion from landfill. In addition, several items were diverted to recycling, to help meet sustainability targets. A number of fragile show cases were inventoried, packed and taken to our London storage centre for safekeeping until their new building is ready to move in to in three years’ time.
As part of this project we handled, cleaned and wrapped thousands of rare and fragile books, keeping to very tight deadlines, despite the need for a soft touch and gentle pace and all the books were safely relocated to their new homes allowing the RCS to proceed with its site plans without disruption.
To read the blog post the RCS did of our project click here
The Royal College of Surgeons
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