Apr 23, 2018 | Blog

Rightsizing library space and collections

In 2017, the National Science Foundation (NSF) moved from its previous headquarters in Arlington, Virginia to a new LEED-certified building in neighboring Alexandria.

This was a perfect opportunity to imagine what the NSF library could be, with a focus on modernization to emphasize the library’s digital resources. The move aligns with the current GSA (General Services Administration) real estate strategy to consolidate space and reduce federal square footage.

We were involved in pre-move activities, which were completed in August 2017. Going forward, as LAC Federal became involved under a new contract on October 1, 2017, our responsibilities have shifted to post-move activities like marketing, inventory and ongoing digitization.


Rightsizing the print collection

The new NSF library is physically smaller than the one in the old building. The shelf space was reduced by nearly half—from 2,655 linear feet to 1,343 linear feet. The move was an opportunity to analyze the library’s print collection and weed out materials that were outdated or easily accessible online.

The collection was comprised of three main sections:

  • Reference collection, which was significantly downsized and integrated into the general collection.
  • General collection, which was weeded to be more focused and relevant to the needs of NSF staff.
  • Agency-produced and funded publications, which were significantly expanded as NSF employees cleaned out their offices and donated agency publications to the library in advance of the move.

Rightsizing the library space

The move afforded staff the opportunity to reimagine the use of space in the new NSF library. Space requirements have changed over time as users’ needs have changed and more information is available digitally.

Library staff participated in the design and layout process prior to the move. Knowing that the new space would be a bit off the beaten path from other building services, the location needed to attract visitors for reasons other than just the print collection. The new space includes modular tables and chairs that can be reconfigured to convert the reading room into meeting space. Audiovisual enhancements include a ceiling-mounted projector and a retractable screen, as well as a large wall-mounted monitor for streaming videos or custom library content.

The big library moving day

Move day was handled flawlessly by the NSF move coordination teams. The librarians were tasked with mapping, shelf-by-shelf, the existing collection space to the new, smaller space to ensure adequate room.

According to Sonja Gardner-Clarke, NSF Library Program Manager:

“Once the floor was reinforced and the shelving installed, no other changes would be authorized. The mapping was completed to ensure the library’s collection would not encroach upon the space promised to the Historian. Also, the mapping was performed to create a strategic plan for quickly shelving the collection into the new space.”

All 405 shelves of the existing library were labeled before transfer to large moving carts and shrink-wrapped for transportation. The librarians then supervised the unloading of carts to the corresponding labeled shelves in the new library.

The entire move process was completed in three business days:

  1. One day for pre-move loading of the collection.
  2. One day to load the remaining office equipment and supplies.
  3. One day to deliver and unload the collection in the new space.

No major errors were found in the collection move process.

Ongoing collection digitization

 “What you see is only the tip of the iceberg…”

That’s what the poster outside of the new NSF states, as one of the biggest goals was to make print resources a smaller focus of the collection, and to expand the digital infrastructure. Print subscriptions have been eliminated and all library subscriptions have been IP-authenticated to support a geographically-dispersed workforce and the constant travel needs of the Foundation.  The library also is in the process of digitizing agency-produced documents in the NSF collection for preservation and digital access. More than 2,000 items have been sent to a commercial scanning vendor and the digitization process is expected to be completed in 2018.

Post-move projects and reflections

A post-move inventory of the general collection was finished in early February. The NSF collection will be inventoried once the items sent out for digitization are reintegrated.

Feedback about the new library has been overwhelmingly positive.

While the library is smaller than in the old building, it looks and feels larger because it uses space more efficiently. The new library has double the seating space of the old location, and that meeting space may be reserved through NSF’s conference room scheduling tool. Several groups, such as the NSF Toastmasters, host weekly meetings in the library.

Marketing the NSF library has become increasingly important since the move.

In the old building, the library was centrally located near the cafeteria. In the new building, it’s located on the 10th floor alongside the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Directorate, while other agency-wide services are located on the second through fourth floors.

Librarians have been developing posters, writing content for the agency’s weekly newsletter, and distributing fliers in the staff kitchens in order to help patrons find the new location and learn more about the library’s services. We held an Electronic Resources Fair in April 2018 to give patrons an opportunity to learn more about our digital resources. The librarians are also extending services outside of the library, hosting trainings that are targeted to working groups in various offices and directorates. These trainings emphasize the value of our digital resources, as well as the expertise and value of librarians as an embedded information resource.


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