Preservation Move Guidelines

General Performance Standard for Moving Harvard Library Collections


  • Understanding that library collections may be fragile or vulnerable to damage, Vendor takes rigorous, proactive steps to prevent further damage during handling, packing, transport, storage, and reshelving.
  • Risk considerations to be addressed include: fire, water, mold, pests, shock, vibration, pressure, heat, humidity, dirt, corrosive/acidic materials, weather hazards.
  • When Vendor is unsure if their actions may cause harm, they immediately consult with Harvard Library.
  • Damage that occurs during the course of the project is both documented and reported immediately to Harvard Library so corrective action can be taken.
  • If Vendor encounters existing active mold or pest damage, it is both documented and reported immediately to Harvard Library so corrective action can be taken.
  • Collection materials are kept in original shelf order.
  • Building upon information supplied by Harvard Library, Vendor documents and maintains intellectual control over the collection while it is in their care.
  • Harvard spaces, staff, and collections remain safe and secure.
  • Vendor personnel avoid damage to Harvard shelving, furniture, and any other property.
  • Safety procedures prevent injuries to all personnel working on the project.


Harvard Guidelines for Moving Library Collections


These guidelines were developed based on previous Harvard Library experience with moving projects, and are proven to be effective in achieving our Performance Standards. If a Vendor wishes to achieve the standards with different procedures, they should propose in writing and demonstrate such procedures. Harvard Library will provide more detailed handling, cleaning, packing, transport, storage, and reshelving guidelines for specific material formats and sub-collections as needed.

General Guidelines

When moving special collections, extra care and extra time should be taken to prevent damage, falls, abrasion, disorder, and loss.

  • The Vendor handles and transports Harvard property in such a way that the property is secure and protected from damage from loss, fire, water, shock, vibration, heat, humidity, pests, dirt, weather hazards, theft, and all other hazards. Complete protection and care is employed to provide optimum protection for Harvard material from the time it is removed from its current location to the time it is placed in its new location, as verified by library staff.
  • University property is never left unattended or in unsecured areas. Vendor personnel comply with all security requirements and library regulations at work sites.
  • Food, drink, and smoking are prohibited in special collections storage areas. Vendor personnel refrain from eating, drinking (including water), or smoking except in designated areas and at all times when handling library collections. Work sites, including outdoor areas, are kept free from food waste, drink containers, and the remains of cigarettes. Dispose of all trash outside the work site.

Handling Library Materials

  • Handle library materials with recently cleaned hands or disposable, powder-free examination gloves (no cotton gloves).
  • If items fall or are damaged by handling in any way, document and report damage immediately to library staff for assessment and repair.
  • No adhesive labels of any kind, including Post-It®-like labels, are applied to library materials. When books must be individually marked, insert paper flags into text blocks.

Removing books from shelf

  • Use library ladders or stools to access library materials on higher shelves; do not climb or support body weight directly on library shelving.
  • Freestanding bookends such as cloth-covered blocks keep books upright at all times on the original shelf; no slumping or leaning is permitted at any time.
  • Remove volumes that sit upright on shelves by grasping them at mid-spine with one hand, while supporting those that remain on the shelf with the other. Gently push adjacent books back to expose gripping area. In absolutely no case shall a volume be removed from the shelf by pulling from the top of the spine.
  • For thinner books, grasp no more than three books at a time and a maximum of 3” total thickness (to reduce the risk of dropping).
  • Whenever possible, move library collections on rolling carts, or boxed and secured on wrapped pallets. Minimize the distance of hand-held transport to reduce risk of dropping.

Cleaning books

  • Moves provide an ideal opportunity to clean collections while minimizing the number of times items are handled.
  • Information derived from:
  • Goals of cleaning are to ensure that as little dust and grit as possible are transferred to newly locations, and to improve the longevity and usability of the collection by reducing risks of acid migration and abrasion.
  • Preservation Services offers training sessions for personnel who will perform the cleaning (or manage it) and can advise regarding cleaning issues throughout the course of the project.
  • Vacuum and/or wipe dust and other particulate matter from the outside surfaces of collection items or their containers. No liquids are to be applied to collections or their containers.
  • The contract with the vendor should specify who is to provide cleaning supplies, cleaning cloths, dust masks, gloves, vacuum cleaners, extension cords, and other equipment required to complete the work described herein.
  • Clean collections before they are moved onto carts or into boxes.
  • Only use vacuum cleaners with HEPA filtration systems. Use soft bristle brush attachments at the nozzle end. Mark thebrush attachments used to clean collections so they can be segregated from brushes used to clean shelving and floors.
  • Prepare the vacuum cleaner: when vacuuming special collections materials, cover the vacuum wand with cheesecloth before a brush is applied, to prevent paper and loose parts of bindings from being picked up by the vacuum cleaner. Any loose parts recovered from the cheesecloth should be put in an envelope and placed in the same box or end of shelf. When vacuuming general collections library materials in good condition, as well as boxes and other enclosures, the vacuum wand and brush may be used without cheesecloth.
  • For books and journals in good condition, removed items from shelves one by one and hold tightly closed with the top edge pointing down, to prevent dust and dirt from being forced between pages. Run vacuum brush along all edges of each volume. Begin at the top (at the spine) and work forward along the top and the front edge. Then begin at the bottom edge (at the spine), and work forward.
  • For volumes that have been shelved flat and their covers are dusty or dirty, vacuum (good condition) or wipe (poor condition) these flat surfaces as appropriate.
  • Volumes that have weak or crumbling bindings should be wiped rather than vacuumed, using lint-free, oil- and solvent-free cloths approved by Preservation Services.

Enveloping and enclosures workflow

  • Packing workflow may include decision-making and providing new enclosures for items that are likely to suffer damage despite careful handling while being removed from the shelf, placed on a cart, packed and unpacked from a box, and reshelved at the end of the project.

Packing books into boxes

  • Clean, dry, intact document cases, record storage cartons (full- and half-size) and other standard, acid-free, archival boxes and padding material are suitable for transporting and storing groups of materials.
  • Maintain books in the order as found on the shelf.
  • Place books in boxes either on their bottom edges (i.e., upright, as if they sat on shelves), laid flat, or positioned spine down. Never place books with the spine facing up.
  • Smaller books, up to 1” less than the interior height of the box, stand on their bottom edges. Pad out the sides of the box to prevent shifting.
  • Larger books, within 1" of the interior height of the box, lie down inside the box in one or two stacks. If in two stacks, book spines face each other (any other orientation can enable the pages to knife into each other during transit). Pad out the ends of the box to prevent shifting.
  • Oversized volumes may be placed upright with the spine facing down, but may not lean diagonally inside the box. Place anything too big for the standard box in a larger box, plastic tote bin; alternatively, flag it for a special enclosure to be arranged by Harvard Library.
  • Pack volumes so they do not rub or shift when they are moved, but not so tightly that force is required to remove them from boxes. Volumes may not slump or lean. Insert padding where necessary to support volumes and stacks upright, and protect collections from abrasion and distortion.
  • When the lid is placed on the box, it should not rest directly on any book. A 1” gap between the tallest book or stack should remain between the lid and the material.
  • Check box handle holes for damage prior to lifting, and use one hand underneath to support loaded boxes with even slight handle damage.
  • Full-sized record storage cartons cannot weigh more than 40 pounds per Harvard Depository and Harvard University Mail Service policies. Weigh each box to verify.
  • All boxes containing library collections remain in an upright position (as they sat on the shelves) when they are picked up, moved, and reshelved.
  • Stack boxes no more than three high on a four-wheeled Magliner or similar hand truck for transport to palletizing location. Use caution when going over thresholds, elevator gaps, and other uneven surfaces. Cover with plastic if travelling outdoors.
  • Stack boxes no more than four tiers high on a pallet for transport. Pad each tier with a layer of corrugated board and staggered (bricked) to prevent boxes from toppling or being crushed. Wrap loaded pallet prior to any movement.

Loading books onto a wheeled bookshelf cart

  • Use a free-standing bookend on the cart and another on the shelf to keep books upright and supported at all times.
  • Maintain the order as found on the shelf.
  • Load the cart from the bottom up to prevent it being top-heavy and prone to tipping.
  • When ready to move the cart, secure each shelf at the front edge to prevent anything from falling out. A sheet of corrugated cardboard with an L-fold at the bottom tucked into the bottom shelf, secured with three or more elastic cords works well. (consider use of non-adhesive polyethylene closed-cell plank foam to fill gaps at front of shelf)
  • Fill any partial shelves with dunnage (empty boxes) or other materials to prevent shifting during transit.
  • Maintain full control of a moving cart at all times. Roll carts at a slow and careful speed, and do not allow a cart to roll unattended. Vendor personnel may never ride on carts, empty or loaded.

Reshelving at the new location

  • Books that were shelved upright in their original locations are also shelved upright in their new locations unless flagged by library staff.
  • When books are placed upright on shelving in their new locations, spines are aligned uniformly and set back 1-2" from the shelf edge.
  • Use freestanding bookends on both the rolling cart and the new shelf to prevent books from leaning or slumping.
  • Leave room for expansion at the right end of each shelf as directed by library staff.
  • Secure built-in bookends once the shelf has been fully loaded.