May 23, 2022

Duke University Library Renovation Prep: A Look at Moving Items Out of the Rubenstein Rare Books and Manuscripts Library

From the Durham Herald-Sun:

The papers of Spain’s Vice Consulate of Foreign Affairs in Savannah, Ga., from 1878 to 1884 are ready to move.

So are the 1827-1863 letters of Robert Slidell Smith of Havre de Grace, Md., and the Sarah Dyer ’zine collection from 1985 to 2005. Not to mention a copper 19th century apothecary boiler.

They are among the thousands of items — in fact, 32,500 linear feet of items, or six miles worth — in the process of being moved from Duke University’s Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

“It’s a huge job, just huge,” said Kat Stefko, head of the Rubenstein Library Technical Services. “There are so many people involved, so many collections, so many moving parts. Just a huge job.”

The Rubenstein’s entire collection is being moved because Duke’s original 1928 library building and its 1948 addition — including the elegant Biddle Rare Book Room and the imposing Gothic Reading Room — are about to undergo a complete renovation and expansion.


But before the massive renovation project — which won’t be finished until the summer of 2015 — can even officially be started, all the current materials in the Rubenstein library must be organized, prepared, packed up and moved.

Extraordinary care must be taken of the materials, which include the official university archives.

“Many of the items are very fragile,” said Molly Bragg, the collections move coordinator. “And there are so many unique materials, all one-of-a-kind items.”

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.