Karen Mee and Remi Turner from our Reading Room team give an update on Special Collections’ annual Action Week.

The end of August saw the completion of another successful Action Week. Teams from Special Collections, Customer Services and enthusiastic volunteers work to conserve and care for, sort and label, reorganise and re-shelve the valuable collections housed in the library’s stacks and storage areas.

The reading room and conservation studio were bases for volunteers and staff to clean and repackage. In total staff cleaned and rehoused 38  Liddle museum objects and textiles including an armoured vest and a flag so large it took 3 people to hold, as well as 16 boxes from the Philips of Hitchin antique dealers archive.

Staff removed oversized maps in the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society archive to the reading room and unrolled them fully so they could log information such as weight, dimensions and fragility before relabelling. Some maps are wrapped in a protective material called Tyvek and all are reshelved with up-to-date location data, much to the reading room team’s delight.

The stacks were a hive of activity with a lot of re-organising and shelf pitching. The Whitaker map collection was removed from shelves, the shelves cleaned and items with loose or damaged bindings tied with conservation tape. The maps were re-sequenced and re-shelved to make retrievals easier and safer for staff. Very large and heavy atlases were stored on lower shelves and smaller items higher up. This reconfiguration also gained 11 shelves of space – always a good outcome in a library.

Re-shelving activities
Re-shelving the Quaker Collection

The Quaker collection comprises bound and boxed items and was rearranged to ensure it was stored together in a clearer sequence, requiring lots of shelf repitching and box passing.

In the processing room a constant stream of helpers sorted, tidied, relabelled and re-shelved the Freemantle music collection.  This was a large project that took all week to complete. Lots of different tasks were going on in the Brotherton Room, including  sorting through a scientific archive, reordering books in the cabinets and replacing book ties on items in the Herbert Read library. The Feminist Archive North sorted through some of their collections too.

Work going on in our offices included checking and relabelling the Coin Collection, a welcome break from the physical demands of clearing and re-shelving books and boxes. Interest in this collection has increased so it is important to make it more accessible to staff and researchers. Photographs of the collection are available on our website.

Action Week is very thirsty and hungry work and everyone involved is sustained by the treats brought in to share at communal break times. One of the highlights among this year’s selection has to be a most impressive batch of home-made doughnuts. After all the hard work is done and everything is tidied away ready for re-opening after the Bank Holiday, the team celebrate on Friday with a traditional visit to the pub.

team photo
The team relaxes with well earned drinks at the end of Action Week

This year was also a celebration of our colleague John Smurthwaite’s last action week and retirement. For some of us it is also the time to start planning next year’s action week.