Conservation insights: moving the Bolton Library

by Josefin Jimenez, Bolton Conservator

Last year the new wing of the Glucksman Library was finished, and Special Collections and Archives were ready to move to their new premises. With the completion of the building, everything was in place to start moving the Bolton Library, otherwise known as the Cashel Diocesan Library, to a new storage. Since its arrival at UL, it had been kept in archival storage, but this was never intended as a long-term solution. Not only was the room needed for the expanding archives in the university’s care, but the format of the shelves and layout of the room made it difficult to access to the Bolton books.


Moving the Library

The new Glucksman library wing includes purpose-built strongrooms for the Bolton Library and other rare books in the Special collections and Archives department, which are climate controlled to a very exact degree. They have AC designed to hold temperature and relative humidity (RH) steady, with only minor fluctuations. Temperature and relative humidity are important factors for caring for the books in the best way. There is an ideal range of temperature and RH for books, paper and associated materials. Storage outside of this range, as well as abrupt changes, can have adverse effect on the sensitive materials that make up the bindings. Maintaining a steady environment is very important to ensure the longevity of the materials.

The new space is also better suited for the large volumes in the Bolton Library with purpose-built shelves, which allowed for the restoration of the original A–Z shelving sequence.


Bolton Library in previous storeroom



Moving the books was a perfect opportunity to undertake a collection-wide condition assessment. Just as the catalogue information for the Bolton Library needed updating, the information about the general physical condition of the books is scant. We know that they were previously housed in a library building without environmental controls, and that there has been no collated information dedicated to conservation, even if selected items have received conservation treatments during the years (for instance F.17.48 The first and second volumes of Chronicles[…])

This meant that as we moved the books, we also documented and assessed their general physical condition. By necessity, when a survey is this large there is not time to investigate and describe the books in great detail. Nonetheless, we still wanted to gather information on preservation issues such as mould, insect damage or sensitive materials.

The books were put into the following categories:

  • Good: no damage, can be accessed without intervention.
  • Fair: some damage, but can be accessed without intervention.
  • Poor: damage, cannot be accessed without intervention.


This high priority item, ‘The whole Workes of Tyndall, Firth and Barnes’, has been severely insect damaged and can’t be accessed without treatment


714 metres of shelving

Moving and surveying the entire Bolton Library has been a huge undertaking, one which took from July 2019 to February 2020 to complete. Each book had to be taken off the shelf in the previous storage space, documented and assessed, and packed with great care in padded and lined crates, before being transported to the new facility, where they were left to acclimatise to the new conditions before they could be unpacked and shelved.


Moving crate packed with books, the crates were padded internally to make sure the books didn’t move during transit


By the end of the project:

  • We packed and assessed around 7,470 books (although the Bolton Library contains 12,000 titles, some of them are bound together and it makes the number of book structures slightly less).
  • We filled 33 bays in the new strongroom, which measures approximately 714 metres of shelving, nearly two-thirds of a kilometre of books.
  • The shelving sequence starts with A.1.1 and ends with Z.7.21.
  • The preliminary results for the survey contain good news, showing 77% of the collection is classified as Good or Fair, and only 23% is classified as Poor. This portion of the collection is currently too fragile to be accessed by readers.


Future blog entries will explore more findings from the move and survey.


Crates of books going through the acclimatisation process

Bolton Library collection installed in the new strong room



Further reading:

  1. Explore the Bolton Library, Glucksman Library, UL
  2. ‘Moving Library Collections’, Preservation Advisory Centre at the British Library