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Six Days to a New Library

The Art & Design Collection from the Corcoran Relocates to Gelman Library Just in Time

Art + Design Collection from the CorcoranHow long does it take to move 40,000 books, periodicals, and special artists’ books from the shelves of one location to an entirely new location, all while being kept perfectly in order?  About six days, if you’re the GW Libraries. 

On Thursday, August 21, the historic agreements between the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art and Design, the George Washington University, and the National Gallery of Art were finalized.  The university took responsibility for the Corcoran’s 17th Street building and one of the nation’s leading art schools, which is now known as the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design within GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

With the Corcoran building slated for renovations this Fall, the collections from the Corcoran College Library needed to be relocated to GW’s Gelman Library.  With classes set to begin just four days after the agreement was finalized, they needed to be relocated immediately.   

A special Corcoran Library Transition Team for the GW Libraries, made up of representatives from building operations, public services, resource description, and collection development, started planning for just this possibility at the beginning of July.  It is no small thing to move a library collection of 3,700 linear feet of shelving space.  That’s almost 7 times the height of the Washington Monument of books to carefully prepare, pack, and label while also preparing a space to house them.  And then there are the 40,000+ catalog records to be imported into the GW catalog.  All of this must be done with great precision to ensure that these important resources are immediately available to the students and professors who need them.

Art + Design Collection from the CorcoranThe Art & Design Collection from the Corcoran is located on Gelman’s first floor, adjacent to computers and student study space.  Rare or fragile works are being managed in the Special Collections Research Center, where they can be maintained in a controlled environment to support their long term preservation.  This art and design collection is being kept together rather than integrated with GW’s collections to maintain its unique character.  Materials are accessible during normal Gelman Library hours.

Now that this collection is at GW, it is open to students and faculty of all nine of our partner schools in the Washington Research Library Consortium.  “Even before the physical move began professors and students were requesting books for their classes,” said Barbra Giorgini, head of the Corcoran Library Transition Team for GW Libraries.  “As soon as the books had been relocated we immediately began pulling out book requests.  We found 24 out of 25 book requests correctly located on the shelves. The book we didn't find was already checked out."

The new Art and Design Collection is already being heavily used, as are the red Herman Miller chairs beloved by Corcoran students and faculty, which were relocated with the collection.  “This collection has vastly increased the breadth and depth of our art and design resources,” says Vice Provost for Libraries Geneva Henry.  “We are excited to collaborate with the faculty of the Corcoran School to support their diverse programs and highlight this unparalleled collection.”

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