Massive Alderman inventory project eases discovery of Library collections

Summer at the Library is always filled with a rich array of happenings, large and small. We’ve hosted high school interns, gotten a peek at the Library’s future, launched an open access publishing service, and had rich experiences alongside our community through efforts like the #CvillePilgrimage and communally transcribing speeches from the Julian Bond collection.

But there’s one other milestone, nearly invisible but absolutely essential, that we wanted to mark before the summer was fully behind us: the completion of the massive Alderman inventory project.


Every item in the main Alderman collection has now been counted, cleaned, verified, and placed back on the shelf for patron use.

A finished inventory, the first of its kind in Alderman’s history, marks a significant moment for the denizens of Alderman Library (human and paper-bound alike).

For the last ten months, individuals contracted through Backstage Library Works have been combing the Alderman stacks, manually surveying every single record under this building’s very old roof. Nearly 1.7 million items (1,675,346, to be exact) were counted, cleaned, and verified within the Virgo cataloging system. Along the way, 47,642 issues have been fixed in metadata records, including call number fixes, erroneous locations, problematic bar codes, and errors in title or author records.

On the surface, this process may seem rote, boring, uneventful. But the key is in what this will mean for the future of Alderman Library: With improved records, discoverability skyrockets. With clean, preserved books, usability increases. With carefully monitored (and now repaired) metadata records, confidence in our very Library system increases, leading to better use and better service, touching myriad points within the Library experience.

Esther Onega, Director of Alderman Renovation Planning, remarks:

“We’ve been wanting to inventory our collection for a long time and the renovation was the perfect opportunity to do it now. This is exciting because we’ll be able to have better information in VIRGO and data for moving the collection before the renovation begins. Staff across the Library has enthusiastically supported this effort and made outstanding contributions to its success.”

What now?

Backstage will continue assisting the Library with an inventory of Government Documents, which is currently ongoing. As of July 2018, about 60% of the estimated 650,000 items had been processed, and progress will continue into the coming months.

Giving credit where it’s due…

We appreciate the patience we’ve seen from Library patrons: we know the extra staffers in the stacks, and the carts sometimes blocking your way, may have been an inconvenience. But completion of this project marks a major milestone into Alderman’s past and its future—and we’re thrilled to move forward with you from here.

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