WILLIAMSTOWN -- Susan Roeper is feeling a bit more at ease this week, now that her 150,000 "babies" have returned home.
Roeper is the head librarian of the Clark Art Institute library, and since June, her "babies" -- 150,000 books on every imaginable aspect of the art world -- have been away from home.
The books had to be removed from the four-story library during the installation of a fire suppression system, which required partial removal of the plaster ceiling -- and the library's entire collection.
The project is part of a $170 million renovation of the Manton Research Center, scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2014.
During the move, which began June 3, it took 10 to 14 workers one day to remove 500 crates and it took two weeks to move them all out of the building. The crates then were stacked on pallets, which were wrapped in large sheets of plastic to guard against moisture and dust.
The job was handled by National Library Relocations Inc. based in Islandia, N.Y. The Clark Art books were stored for more than two months in the moving company's warehouse in Three Rivers, Mass.
After the construction work was done, it took another two weeks to move them all back in -- and placed on the same shelves and in the same order.
The books were returned to their shelves this week. The library will reopen to the public on Tuesday.
Roeper said that if laid end-to-end, the books would stretch about 8,651 linear feet. That's 1.8 miles of art-related tomes. Once packed, they filled 3,312 cardboard crates.
Before the move even started, Roeper noted, institute staff, fellows and regular users were encouraged to check out any books they were expecting to need over the summer, with the agreement that they would not be returned until the work was complete.
"Thousands of books were checked out," Roeper said. "But we told people, ‘You can't return them until we're ready.' "
For Roeper, who trained and worked all her life with a librarian's mission to keep as many books as possible available to the public, the tough part was not so much the move itself, but knowing for more than two months that her volumes were shrouded in plastic in Central Massachusetts.
"The part that was uncomfortable for me was knowing they were not on the shelves -- knowing they were wrapped up in pallets somewhere else," she said. "But I'm certainly glad we moved them and protected them. And when they got back, watching the boxes being opened was a real thrill."