Monday, May 10, 2010

Step 4: Barcoding & Labeling

In the face of our move, we have been reality checked on many fronts. One such realization hits when we move beyond assessing the appropriateness of our containers, and look to their identification (i.e. labels). Reality Check: Not all of our containers have permanent labels. In fact, most do not. Many of our boxes have an index card clipped to their front which provides the name of the collection and the box number; this is not permanent by any means.

As mentioned previously, one of the trade-offs of our new facility is that Russell staff will not have the same hands-on access to collections we currently enjoy. Once they are put into “the cube” they will be accessed and delivered to staff and researchers on the upper floors of the building by a trained team, stationed in the cube. This altered workflow makes it ESSENTIAL that all the boxes we have are properly labeled and barcoded so that when a request is made the proper boxes make the journey upstairs.
Below: Dutiful student with boxes to re-label.

With this in mind, we have assigned one of our student workers to a sole assignment: apply permanent labels to our most heavily used collections -- the Richard B. Russell Collection and the Herman E. Talmadge Collection. She is not only labeling the boxes, but ensuring that our inventory matches what is physically on the shelves. To give you a sense of the scale of this project, let’s talk in hours of project time. The student dedicated to this project began work at the Russell in the fall of 2009 and dutifully works 10 hours per week, with the exception of university holidays. So far, she has completed labeling/inventory matching on 1,049 out of the 3,500 boxes that make up the Russell Collection. With her return next fall, she will resume the project and continue on with the remainder of Russell, and then onto Talmadge.

Now for barcoding. Beyond labels, we also have to apply barcodes to all of our containers, loose objects, and map folders. The barcodes will play an equally crucial role in the workflow of moving requested boxes from the cube to the research room. It is by barcode number - which connects the physical box with the intellectual identity (number, series, collection, etc.) - that staff will request boxes, using an automated computer system. We haven’t begun this project yet, but we plan to start by barcoding the Russell Collection first since it is the most complex. The barcode labels and scanners should be ordered this week, so hopefully we will begin this project this summer.

Labeling & Barcoding is a fairly straightforward step, but one that cannot begin without the completion of many of the steps we have already described (identify, inventory, pack). If any of you readers have experience with barcoding projects and want to share tips, tricks, or just general experiences, please shoot us an email (

Post by Kat Stein & Jan Levinson, Russell Library

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