Five Colleges Library Annex set to take 2.5 million volumes

HATFIELD — Any bibliophile who has relocated from one home to another knows how burdensome moving a bookshelf full of books can be. Now try and imagine the logistical nightmare involved in moving not just a few boxes of books, but some 2.5 million volumes.

That is the work that will eventually take place at Five Colleges’ new Library Annex in Hatfield, which officially opened in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday. The 35,000-square-foot building will eventually shelve books from the Five College Repository Collection, Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges, as well as the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Smith College, a financing partner in the endeavor, will benefit significantly in the short term from the project; the annex will host a large portion of the circulating collection from Neilson Library, which has closed for renovation and reconstruction until 2020.

“This a humongous project,” said Diane Pikul, a project manager for National Library Relocations, which is tasked with the logistics necessary for such an endeavor.

The Library Annex consists of some offices, meeting space and a reading room, but the majority of the building’s space will be used for a climate-controlled storage facility of massive proportions.

The 26,000-square-foot storage module is a concrete-floored room with 24-foot-high green shelving, where the books will eventually be stacked, waiting for students and researchers to request them from the building’s depths. The property has enough space for the construction of up to four future modules of similar size.

The sheer weight of the room — tens of thousands of pounds of concrete, 1 million pounds of steel shelving, plus the weight of 2.5 million volumes — meant that engineers had to make sure the ground beneath was sturdy before beginning.

The storage facility was built on the dried bed of what was once the glacial Lake Hitchcock, which meant that the ground beneath is a mixture loose sand and gravel.

To make…

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