IU’s ALF Building Archives Hoard Of Treasures


Since books aren’t sorted by subject, but by size, there are two people who check each other’s work when a book comes to the ALF, is put in a box and given a bar code. In 11 years, Nuest said, the ALF staff has never had a book they couldn’t find among its six-figure collection.

They may be out of sight for most library users, but these books are handled with care.

The floor is “super flat,” meaning no square inch can deviate in height from the next – Nuest said only two contractors in the country are certified to do a super flat floor, and one was in Louisville, Ky. The stacks are anchored with cement, meaning the librarian’s nightmare, of one unit falling into another, won’t happen.

There are special pressurized fire sprinklers behind each stack, too, with water loaded at the tip to be sprayed instantaneously in the event of a fire; the sprinklers – which hang like hoses from the ceiling and down to the stacks’ rows – detect heat and only activate the hose behind a specific box of books.

The room is always 50 degrees and 32 percent humidity, optimal conditions for preservation, and if those numbers shift a half-percent, Nuest said a “911” call is made to the physical plant department to fix it.

And the ALF collection is only expected to grow. Sherri Michaels, head of collection management at IU, says conservative estimates have every inch of space occupied and 6 million books in place in eight years. The ALF also has piles of film reels, about 80,000, with features ranging from World War II propaganda films to a 1950s university film titled “Your Daughter at IU,” all candidates for digitization under the plan McRobbie announced.

But politicians’ archives, especially, encapsulate the changes archivists are finding as the world moves digital.

Cruikshank, the ALF’s political program specialist, is in a building surrounded by books, but she often recalls a story about how U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle’s political papers ended up at South Dakota State University.

They arrived in a large tractor trailer – on three compact computer hard drives.

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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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