Field Trip to a Book Depository

In my first year of library school, I got to go on a bunch of field trips as part of my publishing class (highly recommended!). Mostly they were based around the UofA: we got to see the University of Alberta's Espresso machine, and visit the University of Alberta Press. I've also been fortunate enough to visit the Atlas Book Bindery.

And today, to cap off my library school career, I finally got to go to the University of Alberta's Book and Records Depository (fondly known as 'BARD'). Don't tell the prof, but I mostly took that particular class because I'd heard they got to go to Bard and I've always wanted to visit.

And Bard did not disappoint.

Bard houses books and archival material from the University - it has room for over 3.2 million books! It's actually an old IKEA warehouse, and is of course temperature and condition controlled. Besides the offices and processing area, the best bit was the warehouse area, mostly because its tall cavernous expanse was full of shelves, shelves and more shelves full of books, books and more books.

The books are shelved as they come in, so complete runs or sets might not be together. They are organized according to size (not topic) and placed in particularly sized boxes, assigned a common barcode, and then placed on one of the shelves. When a request comes in (about 400-500 a day I think?), staff use cherry pickers to navigate through the aisles and up the shelving units to retrieve the box the book came from.

Photo from the About Bard page

There is also space designated for donations (in whatever state of processing they are in) and an archives room. The librarian who gave us a tour compared the archives room to a type of fungus that just grows and grows regardless of if you want it to or not. I figure that's a fitting analogy. More information about BARD is available here and here.

I would go crazy if I worked at Bard. Everything is everywhere. I am a compulsive tidyer and the disarray of some areas would drive me crazy. I would need to put everything back and make it all neat.

It was pretty neat to visit though!

When I was in Vancouver last year, we visited the University of British Columbia, which has a nifty ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System) located right in one of the libraries. Basically it's like a mini-Bard with an automated retrieval robot thing that pulls out the books that some one might request. Also very neat to see.

And you thought all librarians did all day was check out books. Nope, some work in warehouses organizing mountains of books!