which have undergone similar renovations.Columbia University is currently working on asimilar project.
They also looked to the experience at LangdellLibrary at Harvard Law School, which closed for ayear while it was renovated earlier this decade.
But because it shut down, Langdell offers fewlessons for Harvard's biggest library, which hasno plans to close and has exponentially more booksthan its law school counterpart.
"We can't do a Langdell. [There is] no place inthe world to shelve that many books [and] we justcan't close it," says Sidney Verba '53, directorof the University library and PforzheimerUniversity professor.
Moving the Books
The most difficult problem then has beencooking up a way to move the books around insideWidener while construction workers invade thebuilding.
According to Lee, Yale's project provided apowerful example of what not to do. For Sterling,Yale left its books on the stacks and attempted towork around them.
"They wound up with a mess on their hands," Leesays.
That mess was composed of metal filings on thebooks and accumulations of dirt and dust on thevolumes.
According to Cline, Yale now plans to spend $1million this year cleaning up the miss, includinghand-vacuuming of each of the library 3.75 millionbooks.
Harvard aims to do its Ivy counterpart onebetter.
"I'm feeling very confident that we'll do thisproject and we'll do it with well with nowherenear the disaster as what happened at Yale," saysDavid A. Zewinski '76, associate dean for physicalresources and planning in FAS.
The University plans to divide each ofWidener's ten stack levels into two sections, witheach of these 20 sections containing roughly 2.5miles of shelves and 300,000 books.
The process of shifting the books will worklike this: D-level will first be cleared asoverflow space, with half of its current booksshifted to Pusey library and half sent to theHarvard Depository.
The then-empty D-level will be renovated first.Then, as renovations move up the building, thefloor being worked on will have its books shiftedto the then-empty space in D.
In this way, library officials plan to have thebooks remain accessible in their temporarylocations throughout the process except when theyare in transit.
The renovations are expected to take betweenthree and four weeks per section, with theexception of D-level, whose extensive renovationswill begin the project with three to four monthsof work.
"It's a huge logistical operation, but they areconfident they can do it," Zewinski says.
When Widener was built it was made of the mostlavish materials available: a thenstate-of-the-art stack system and tons of marbleand granite.
It was thought that with such quality materialsthe library would not burn--and administrators atthe time did not want to put a sprinkler systemthat in the event of a fire would destroy thebooks with water.
"You have marble, you have steel, you havebrick and you thought that with tightly packedbooks there could not be a fire, Cline says. Andthe library's planners did not prepare for one.
An arson fire in the early 1990s that destroyedmuch of the Los Angeles public library'scollection altered that conventional wisdom.Library officials at Harvard and nationwide beganto re-examine their notions about the security oftheir collections.
One myth about Widener holds that the libraryuses an oxygen-suppressant system, which wouldspray a gas like halon to snuff out the fire butmake it impossible for humans inside to breathe.
Not true, Cline says.
There is a halon system in Pusey--one thataccidentally discharged over the summer, resultingin a day-long evacuation. But those systems havesince been outlawed and Pusey's will be replacedsoon.
Additionally, the fear of water on books ismuch less acute now that technology allows wetbooks to be repaired, while burned books cannotbe.
The renovation also seeks to address some ofthe other shortcomings of the original design.
The original notion that light was good forbooks has since been proved wrong-it hastens theirdecay.
Currently the temperature and humidity swingwildly, with temperatures in some areas topping 80degrees on hot summer days. According to Zewinski,it is hoped that the project results in improvedtemperature control throughout the library-withthe stacks kept at 68 degrees and 35 percentrelative humidity.
Other aspects of the project will face greaterdifficulties. Because the stacks are structuralcomponents of the building, supporting much of itsweight, they cannot be tampered with to anysignificant degree.
Still, nearly 9,000 feet of stack space will belost in the renovations to allow for new stairsand elevators.
"The physical construction is really unique.You can't remove floors or always widen anelevator, you can't get rid of a couple ofstacks, you can't widen the aisles," Lee says.
Another obstacle is that the library will haveto conform to some laws that, perhaps weren'tdesigned for a building of its size and purpose.
According to new fire laws, a library ofWidener's size must have the ability to evacuate1,500 people, 150 for each stack level and wellover the numbers the library contains at any time.
Since the library intends to remain open duringthe construction process, library officials saythey have spent a lot of time orientingconstruction workers to the labyrinthinelibrary-and reminding them that people will beworking as they work.
Still, they realize that some patrons will notwant to work in the library given the necessarilyincreased noise.
In response they say that they are notifyingother libraries to prepare to handle the overflowof patrons from Widener, and that they will notifystudents of underused facilities around campus.
Another potential complication to therenovations is that Harvard's library collectionis not insured. The buildings are--through theUniversity--but the collection itself has beencalled "priceless and irreplaceable," and theUniversity has to swallow the loss if thecollections are damaged.
Additionally, the library purchases $10 millionin new materials a year, so the new constructionis needed to "protect what we have, but [also]what we will," says Beth S. Brainard,Communications and Public Information Officer forthe Harvard College Library.
But even after this massive construction, thelibrary's renovators have been told to allow roomfor more changes in the future. Library officialssay the circulation area and Loker reading roommay be the next part of Widener to need afacelift.CrimsonGrant S. QuashaHOME OF THE STACKS:Renovations arescheduled to begin at Widener library this June tosave the more than 13 million books it houses.