FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 23, 2010) – Former Harvard University President Charles W. Eliot wrote, “Books are the greatest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors and the most patient of teachers.”
This observation is all about the relationship between readers and the desired information to be gleaned from the printed page, and it doesn’t have to consider mobility. The books, friends, counselors and teachers referred to by Eliot can individually stand up, or be picked up, to move without trouble. It’s easy to walk a book out to the porch swing. Certainly, individual books in a library are constantly rotating out and back into the collection. But when you contemplate moving an entire collection of thousands of books, manuals, audio-visual materials and furnishings, you need to figure how to prepare, how to do the move itself and what to do when the collection gets delivered to its destination. Printed pages are heavy and bulky so handling is labor-intensive.
When the U.S. Army Transportation School at Fort Eustis received orders to move its location as part of the Base Realignment and Closure decision, the school’s administrators quickly realized that some of the caissons to be rolled along to Fort Lee had better include the tonnage of the school’s collection of books.
“The Transportation School Library is one of the best research resources I’ve come across,” said Transportation Corps Historian Richard Killblane. “It has an excellent collection of military history books and bound unit history publications. So, for the research historian, it’s an excellent tool.”
The expert Army transporters needed a movement plan for their own repository of recorded knowledge and culture, which had not been moved for nearly 60 years.
“I’ve never needed to move a library before,” said Lenora Haughton, who was head librarian while the Richard C. Biggs Memorial Library was still at Fort Eustis. “That’s where the learning curve comes in. But I have talked with some people who have moved a library, and they have been very helpful.”
Haughton began the chore by identifying what part of the school’s collection was not unique, such as dictionaries, atlases, encyclopedia sets and other reference materials already present at the collection’s destination, the U.S. Army Logistics University Library at Fort Lee. Haughton and her staff weeded out about 10 percent of the Biggs collection and offered it to other libraries or turned it over to be sold by the property disposal office.
The remaining 90 percent of the collection was packed at Fort Eustis and transported to Fort Lee in August. About 27 tons of books as well as 45 pieces of library furnishings and equipment were moved
Since the library’s books were already cataloged were able to pack their assigned sections in order and mark the individual cartons with the range of their contents.
Haughton is working with ALU Chief Librarian Tim Renick to merge the Fort Eustis electronic collection catalog into the database already in use at Fort Lee.
The centerpiece of the former Biggs Library is its special collection of rare or one-of-a-kind U.S. Army Transportation instructional, operational, repair and training manuals.
“There are out-of-print original manuals that Tim Renick cataloged and collected when he was at Fort Eustis,” Killblane said. “I’m talking turn of the century.”
Renick’s previous job was the Army Transportation School chief librarian at Fort Eustis from 2000 to 2004, so he is very familiar with the collection Fort Lee is receiving.
Other elements of the Transportation School collection date back to the Civil War. The special collection contains the mechanical and procedural details about how to change the location of just about anything using various transportation means and methods, all backed by the universe of priorities, philosophy and applied art and science that motivates military movement.
“We have the Army Register, which is a list of officers on active duty from the 19th century onward, plus all the original Office of the Chief of Transportation monographs from World War II and Korea, which are a tremendous source,” Killblane said.
The collection will be essentially unavailable for an undetermined time while it is unpacked and assimilated into the collection at the ALU Library.
The Army’s Ordnance School Library was moved from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and integrated into the Fort Lee collection a year ago, and the Quartermaster School Library was already at Fort Lee.
“The combination of all three collections at Fort Lee is going to create an awesome library,” Killblane said.
John Shields, reference and collection development librarian at the ALU Library, said the facility is used by students and school instructors.
“We’re an academic library,” Shields said, “so our collection directly supports the curriculum of the Army Logistics University. And there are many courses here where they study both historical and current military and logistics topics.”
Shields also said the Fort Lee community library shares space in the same building.
The Transportation School Library formally began in February 1944, when the Army’s Transportation School was in New Orleans.
The collection was moved along with the school in May 1946 to Fort Eustis and again in December 1952 when it was moved into the then-new building 705.
One of the strategies behind the 2005 BRAC move was to model a university system by combining the instructional “colleges” of Transportation, Ordnance and Quartermaster into a multiple-discipline institution of Army logistics.
That single site is called the Sustainment Center of Excellence, an organization administered by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.