Where Have All the Journals Gone?

If you have visited Becker Medical Library recently you probably noticed that change is afoot.  Besides the plastic sheeting blocking access to the 3rd and 4th floors you might have noticed that the bound journals once located on the 2nd through 4th floors are gone.  I announced this upcoming change in a Becker Brief posted January 20, 2015, a year and a half ago.  (https://becker.wustl.edu/about/news/less-paper-more-space-library-begin-project-shrink-its-print-journal-collection) The changes were not very obvious, however, until late May of this year when we began boxing our collection up for offsite storage and removing the shelves.  Everything is now gone, journals and shelving, and the renovation work has begun.  Eventually, 2nd through 4th will be completely renovated with office and library commons space, but the first stage only includes 3rd and 4th.  The 2nd floor has become home to a lot of displaced study and lounge furniture, while the rest of the furniture has been distributed throughout the 1st floor and lower level.

With change comes questions.  Here are just a few that our information services staff have heard from patrons.

A library with no books, huh?

When did this happen?

Will we still have any access to the print journals?

Does the Dean know about this?

Did the library move?

I would like to take this opportunity to answer these questions and share with you our plans for the journals now stored off site.

The library still has print books located on the lower level and none were removed or discarded during the offsite storage project.  The only items moved to offsite storage were bound journals.  While the process of weeding the bound journal collection began in January 2015, the actual boxing and moving of the remaining collection began in May 2016 and was completed in early July 2016.  The renovation plans for floors 2 through 4, along with the relocation of the bound journal collection, were approved by the Dean.  The library hasn’t moved, only the bound journals.  They now reside in a records storage facility within 30 minutes of the library.

Library staff members with help from our friends in Custodial Services constructed, labeled, packed, taped, and stacked nearly 8,500 boxes of bound journals in under 6 weeks.  Armed with thousands of spreadsheets with the names of each volume, library staff members packed volumes into boxes, recording each box’s unique barcode number next to the volume name on the spreadsheet.  Pat Gunn, Becker Library’s journal acquisition librarian, is now systematically reviewing all 3,859 printed spreadsheets and recording the barcode numbers in the original Excel spreadsheets.  Once this is finished the library’s cataloging group will update the library’s online catalog system with the correct box numbers for each bound journal volume, enabling our staff to retrieve individual journals from storage relatively easily as needed.  During the coming months we will be developing the process for requesting and retrieving material for users from offsite storage.

Ultimately, we plan to thoroughly review our offsite holdings to identify which journals are held widely by other institutions and which are in danger of extinction.  This analysis will inform our decisions regarding what actions to take with each title – retain, relocate to other institutions, or discard.  During this process, which will likely take several years, I will be working with colleagues within Washington University and the St. Louis region to identify potential strategies for a multi-institutional storage facility that will ensure the long-term access to our valuable holdings.

In the meantime, remember that Becker Medical Library is still here and our staff are as eager as ever to connect you with the information and resources you need.  If this includes an article from one of the offsite journals we may be able to request it from another library via inter-library loan.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns.

Paul Schoening
Associate Dean and Director, Bernard Becker Medical Library