IU’s ALF Building Archives Hoard Of Treasures


As new volumes are printed and spaces are repurposed by libraries around campus, about 300,000 old books come to the ALF for storage each year. While librarians look around their spaces and see the effects of the digital age, the ALF is proof that new books are still being printed and old books are being saved.

“If this is the last one available anywhere, it’s not measured with a price,” Nuest said of a rare book. “If we don’t preserve it, we wouldn’t have it.”

Books end up in the ALF if they haven’t been checked out in five years or only 10 times while in circulation at IU; they are then reviewed by a librarian, who can decide if they stay on campus or are shipped off for storage.

The library has always had storage, Nuest said, just not a “showplace” building like the ALF, which university officials first starting lobbying its trustees for in 1989. It took more than a decade to sell the building, and the first module was completed in 2002, but Nuest has no problem showing off the facility and
its mammoth collection now.

Above all else, Nuest boasts that the ALF is one of about 170 such buildings at universities across the country, but it is the only one that offers same-day delivery from its stacks to locations on campus six days a week. A library user can search the university’s online catalog, click on any item before noon and have it delivered in about four hours.

When a book order is received, Frew heads to the stacks with his lift, finds the box associated with the book and gets it out for delivery. On the trip back to the ALF, books are brought to vacuuming tables that remove dust from the covers and sometimes from individual pages. Many of the books are wrapped in special covers so they “won’t be touched by human hands again,” Nuest said – that is, of course, if they aren’t checked out.

In actuality, Nuest said about 33,000 items are delivered from the ALF to campus per year. More popular are digital scans of journals printed prior to 1923, where copyright laws aren’t an issue; in more than a decade, Nuest said, more than 1 million scans have been sent via email to library users’ computers.

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Posted by on Nov 1st, 2013 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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