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Managing the Collections (Collections Access, Loan and Management Division)
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Library of Congress -- Book Conveyors
Title: The Library of Congress, Book Conveyors
(Created/Published between 1886 and 1900)

Description and History

The organizational lineage of the Collections Access, Loan and Management Division stretches back to 1897, when Library services and collections were transferred from the Capitol building to the new Library of Congress building. At that time, the Main Reading Room Division was established, with one of its responsibilities being the service and care of the collections.
In 1939, with its name already changed to the Reading Rooms Division, service was expanded to include the new Annex Building (now the John Adams Building). Subsequently, in 1944, the Stack and Reader Division was formed as part of the Reference Department reorganization. As the custodian of the General Collections, its mission was to ensure the widest possible use of the collections while ensuring the security of those collections. In addition to providing retrieval services from the General Collections and maintenance of those collections, the Division also administered a program to assign study rooms, study tables and reserve shelves to facilitate extensive research projects. This program was known as Special Facilities for Research or, simply, Research Facilities. Additionally, the Division received applications from researchers for book stack access and issued stack passes when such access was deemed necessary.

The Collections Management Division was formed in 1978 following much discussion and committee work addressing the needs of the General Collections. A major concern at that time was the fact that up to thirty per cent of requests resulted in a not-on-shelf (NOS) report, with no indication of where the items might be located. The formation of the Collections Management Division demonstrated the Library's commitment to ensuring that the General Collections received attention necessary to ensure their retrievability. In planning for this new division, it was critical to understand that high quality service depended not only on a well-trained public service staff, but also on the maintenance of a readily retrievable collection. To accomplish this, the following steps were taken: All functions necessary to maintain and service the General Collections were combined in one division; An inventory/improvement program was established to gain control over these collections, and ensure their retrievability; and, the already existing special search program was expanded greatly to provide a logical next step for readers needing material not readily retrievable. As a further collections management initiative, collections maintenance activities (staff engaged in major shifting and other collections support operations) were transferred from the (then) Preservation Office to the newly formed division.  A subsequent reorganization occurred in 2002, when the Collections Management Division and the Loan Division merged to form the current Collections Access, Loan and Management Division. 

The General Collections themselves are comprised of approximately 23 million book and bound serial volumes, shelved on more than 500 miles of shelving located both on Capitol Hill and at off-site storage facilities, primarily those at the High Density Storage Facilities located at Ft. Meade, Cabin Branch and the Landover Center Annex, all in Maryland. Every working day, as many as 1,500 requests are received for items from the collections.

The Division meets the twin demands of collections access and maintenance through its staff of more than 250 Library employees and contractors. Staff is involved in every aspect of collections service and maintenance work. A full range of maintenance activities are performed, from erecting shelving and cleaning collections to shelfreading and shifting crowded areas. While the maintenance work goes on behind the scenes, the public service work of the division takes place at book service desks in the Main Reading Room (incorporating the former Local History and Genealogy Reading Room which was merged into the Main Reading Room in November 2013) and in the Center Room, Adams Building (serving the combined Science and Business reading room facility). There are also special search desks in the Main Reading Room and in the Center Room, Adams Building.

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  June 10, 2017
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