David Chalifoux is a man with a mission. That mission: to store and protect the 137,790 books, journals, VHS tapes, and microfilm from the college’s libraries. Dave is the supervisor at Williams’ Library Shelving Facility (LSF), a concrete, off-site storage space that is currently housing objects from Sawyer Library, Schow Library, Archives and Special Collections, and Chapin Library of Rare Books while the new library complex is being built. The LSF is also the permanent home of low-usage journals from Sawyer.
Inside, the LSF looks and feels like a climate controlled Home Depot—only cleaner. With 10,000 square feet of floor space and 30-foot-high shelving units, it is quite a space to behold. The entire operation is run with a meticulous attention to detail. Books arriving from campus are first vacuumed clean and sized to fit into an appropriate tray. The item is assigned to that tray by its barcode and logged into special computer software. This process is repeated to verify that all of the information is correct in the system. Then, the tray is placed on the appropriately sized shelf and scanned with a Portable Data Terminal or PDT, which contains the barcode of the shelf, the tray, and the location of the tray on the shelf. From here, the PDT information is uploaded to the computer to permanently place that item and its barcoded location. Items can be retrieved simply by their barcode. It is a system that is both simple as it is sophisticated.
“Here at the LSF,” Dave explains, “books aren’t organized by topics. They’re arranged by size.” Which makes it all the more important to have a redundant system of checks. “We can’t lose a book,” says Dave, “Because in this space, you’d never find it again.”
Dave, an Adams, Mass. native, credits his extensive experience in warehouse operations and maintenance for the LSF’s success. Hired before the off-site storage facility was finished in 2008, Dave and his staff have been instrumental in designing and maintaining the protocol for materials moving in and out of the LSF.
Dave’s eyes light up when he shows off the lift and safety harness required to access the books on the uppermost shelves. Many of the shelves are packed tight but there are dozens of others that are still empty. The LSF has the capacity to store 900,000 volumes and the concrete module is adaptable—other modules can be added on to it as resources and space allow.
The LSF staff members—there are three assistants—make two trips daily to bring requested items to campus and to retrieve items that need to be returned to the LSF. They also perform electronic document delivery via Interlibrary Loan from Williams’ holdings to other institutions.
“The most rewarding thing about this position,” says Dave, “is helping people. It’s great to be able to provide Williams students, faculty, and staff with the materials they need to complete their projects. We work with the best people anywhere.”