Individual books can be picked up and moved at will. It’s easy to walk a book out to the porch swing, and library books are constantly rotating out and back into the collection. But when you contemplate moving an entire collection of thousands of books, manuals, audiovisual materials, and furnishings, you need to figure out all the labor-intensive details: how to prepare, how to do the move itself, and what to do when the collection gets delivered to its destination.
When the U.S. Army Transportation School at Fort Eustis, Virginia, received marching orders from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) in 2005 to move its location, the school’s administrators realized that some of the caissons to be rolled along to Fort Lee, Virginia, needed to include the tonnage of the school’s collection of books. The school is tasked with educating units of the Army Transportation Corps.
“I’ve never needed to move a library before,” said Lenora Haughton, who was head librarian while the Richard C. Biggs Memorial Library, the treasure of the U.S. Army Transportation School, still existed in Building 705 at Fort Eustis. “That’s where the learning curve comes in.”
The expert Army transporters needed transportation for their own repository of recorded knowledge and culture, which had not been moved for nearly 60 years. The Biggs library formally began in February 1944 in New Orleans, where the Army’s Transportation School was located, moved along with the school in May 1946 to Fort Eustis, and relocated again in December 1952 when it was transferred into the then-new Building 705. The library section was such an integral part of the design of Building 705 that the shelving stacks mechanically supported part of the weight of the second floor.
Haughton began the chore by identifying what part of the school’s collection was not unique, such as dictionaries, atlases, encyclopedia sets, and other reference materials already present at the collection’s destination, the U.S. Army Logistics University Library at Fort Lee. Haughton and her staff weeded out about 10% of the Biggs collection and offered it to other libraries or turned it over to the property disposal office for sale.
Hilldrup Moving and Storage packed the other 90% of the unique collection at Fort Eustis, loaded it into trailers 48–53 feet long in six separate trips—five for the holdings and one for 45 pieces of library furnishings and equipment—and transported it all to Fort Lee.
E. J. Radford, who coordinates military moves for Hilldrup, said his company frequently moves libraries from shelf to shelf via rolling carts, but since the Fort Eustis collection needed to be carefully integrated into what was already present at Fort Lee, the job was specified to be packed into cartons instead. The materials filled 1,555 2.5-cubic-foot cartons on 98 pallets, with an estimated weight of 27 tons.
Since the library’s books were already arranged according to Library of Congress classification, movers were able to pack their assigned sections in order and mark the individual cartons with the range of their contents.
Haughton worked with Army Logistics University (ALU) Chief Librarian Tim Renick to merge the online Fort Eustis catalog into the database already in use at Fort Lee. Fortunately, Renick, who was chief librarian of the Army Transportation School at Fort Eustis from 2000 to 2004, was quite familiar with the collection he received at Fort Lee.
The Fort Lee library building opened in July 2010 2009. While the Fort Lee community library shares space, one of the strategies behind the 2005 BRAC move was to model a university system by combining the instructional “colleges” of Transportation, Ordnance, and Quartermaster into a multiple-discipline institution of Army logistics at a single site. “We’re an academic library,” said John Shields, reference and collection development librarian at the ALU Library, “so our collection directly supports the curriculum of the Army Logistics University. And there are many courses here where they study both historical and current military and logistics topics.”
Approximately 10% of the Transportation School collection has been integrated and shelved at ALU Library. While that may make some material temporarily unavailable, Renick said he has a good index of the collection and the moving cartons are numbered.
The Army’s Ordnance School Library was moved from Aberdeen (Md.) Proving Ground in September 2009 and integrated into the Fort Lee collection as well, and the Quartermaster School Library was already at Fort Lee at the start of the reorganization. “The combination of all three collections at Fort Lee is going to create an awesome library,” Transportation Corps Historian Richard Killblane said.
Killblane described the former standalone Biggs library as “one of the best research libraries I’ve come across”—an excellent collection of military history books and library-bound compilations of nonpublished histories of military units.
The centerpiece of the former Biggs Library is its special collection of rare or one-of-a-kind U.S. Army Transportation instructional, operational, repair, and training manuals. “These are way-out-of-print original manuals that Tim Renick cataloged and collected when he was at Fort Eustis,” Killblane said. “I’m talking turn-of-the-[20th] century.”
Other elements of the Transportation School collection date back to the Civil War. The special collection contains mechanical and procedural details about how to change the location of just about anything using various transportation means and methods, all backed by the universe of priorities, philosophy, and applied art and science that motivates military movement.
“We have the U.S. Army Register, which is a list of officers on active duty from the 19th century onward, plus all the original Office of the Chief of Transportation monographs from World War II and Korea, which are a tremendous source,” Killblane said.
RICK HAVERINEN is a public affairs specialist working in media relations at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia. A version of this article first appeared in the September 23, 2010, Fort Lee Traveller.