Wait. We're *gulp* Moving?!?! Part II.

In my last post I talked about the dreaded facts of moving. My organization moved its headquarters in 2017, and I was caught up in figuring out how to move our entire Archive from a large space to a small one. I talked about some of the challenges leading up to the move, but today I’ll continue with a few thoughts on how to handle the actual act of moving and its aftermath (FYI: the word “math” is part of this word for the simple fact that it is never a good thing).

Think Ahead, Then Think Some More

If you’re able to supervise the packing process (or doing it yourself), think far ahead about how you want things to be done. Is there a particular order in which shelving units should be packed? How do you want boxes to be labelled? Will your storage setup be replicated in the new place or will you need to modify how things are laid out? We had the advantage of an excellent move coordination consultant to help us with such things. I highly recommend having someone like this around or connecting with them immediately if they are working with your entire organization! They can help you picture things in a logical way.

One unexpected stumbling block for me was that one moving day at my Archives I had a whole crowd of college-age boys packing books and boxed collections as fast as possible. The book collection boxes were simple since I could explain to the packers to label them with a call number range. Not so the photographic materials. As I did not articulate the fact that those boxes also had collection numbers that could have been used to label the packing boxes, too, it was not done. Dozens of packed boxes ended up as simply “Photo Collection.” I realize now that I should have had a better system for this considering the lag time I experienced in unpacking. Since my boxes were a bit too generically labelled in a lot of cases, I wasn’t able to find things until they were fully unpacked.

Putting Things Back Together

And that delay leads to the other big challenge of moving: telling your patrons to wait. I hate to tell people that I can’t find what they are looking for; though I do have to remind folks that I’m an Archivist, not a Magician, and no matter how much they want a particular primary source to be in my Archives I cannot make it magically appear. Far worse than that is telling people I simply can’t get to the existing thing they do want because it is sitting on a moving truck, in a box buried three rows back, and the shelves haven’t been assembled yet. This part takes time. You will constantly be asking for patience. Be prepared. Put it on your website. Put it in your email signature. Say it in your voicemail greeting. Make it an auto-reply message for the duration of the move. People will get over it.

Take your time in unpacking and arranging your storage and space. This is a chance to undo things that were making you less efficient in your old location. If you had reference materials that you used a lot to answer those quick patron queries but they used to be located far away, take the opportunity to make them closer to you. Although moving is difficult it can open up the archives to new (and sometimes better) ways of doing things.

How About You?

Most important in the whole process is to take care of yourself! Moving can cause stress you never thought possible. You will be tested like no other time in your job. Take a deep breath every single day and know when you need to take a step back, have some downtime, and keep yourself from losing your cool.

Has your Archive moved? How did it go? What went well and what could have gone better? Make us all cringe with your moving tales of woah and cheer on your move successes by telling us about it in the comments section below!

And … check last month's post for part one of this saga: “Wait. We're *gulp* Moving?!?! Part I”

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