Corcoran Library Moves to Gelman

Arts collection brings more than 40,000 books to the George Washington University.

September 22, 2014
As the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design continues its integration into the George Washington University community, Corcoran students now have a familiar resource on campus: their old library. 
Staff installed thousands of Corcoran volumes, periodicals and even some bright red Herman Miller chairs beloved by the Corcoran community on the first floor of the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library. The move was completed at the end of August and, already, librarians have noticed more traffic in the arts-related stacks.
Migrating a book collection was no small feat—especially because the collection contains approximately 40,000 volumes. To add to the challenge, the Corcoran’s library had to be ready for students to use by the first week of the fall semester.
A library transition team met daily since July to consider every step of the process. Their strategy was designed so that as soon as the Corcoran agreement was finalized, the library staff could get to work. Barbra Giorgini, head of the library transition team, helped organize logistics for the move from beginning to end.
“We wanted to make sure we had a plan in place to ensure the collection was going to be available for Corcoran and GW students as soon as possible,” she said. 
The Corcoran agreement reached completion on Aug. 21. Less than 24 hours later, GW staff engaged in a massive collaboration to bring the Corcoran books to Gelman, organize them, install shelving and add the new items to online catalogue systems. Ms. Giorgini said the new George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum provided huge support by giving some of their shelving to the library. Several rare artists’ books also were added into the library’s special collections.
The process was full of challenges: Ms. Giorgini explained that even as the migration was happening, the library staff received multiple requests for books and faculty reserve items. One faculty member needed 28 special collections items immediately. Movers installed about 3,700 linear feet of materials—that’s the equivalent of moving almost six Washington Monuments in just one week.
However, the hard work and careful coordination of GW Libraries staff paid off. The Corcoran library opened ahead of schedule on Aug. 30. Now, whenever arts librarian Shira Loev Eller walks by the Corcoran’s red chairs, she always sees people working in the space. Several professors already have brought their students to the area to engage with the new materials on campus. 
“It’s really been a valuable addition to the GW Libraries. It’s expanding the resources available to GW students,” said Geneva Henry, university librarian and vice provost for libraries.
For Corcoran students, the library means they get a piece of the old Corcoran in their new home. Ms. Henry explained that Gelman offers more space and additional resources that Corcoran students can access in other parts of GW Libraries.
The entire GW community has benefitted from more access to the arts as a result of the Corcoran agreement. Students, staff and faculty can browse Gallery 31, a space in the 17th Street building where artist Joseph Asher Hale unveiled his new installation “Fathom” earlier this month. The model replicates what the world’s continental formations will look like in 250 million years.
Other galleries in the17th Street now have free admission, Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m-5 p.m. Guests can visit the galleries through September 28, after which the galleries will close for renovations by the National Gallery of Art for approximately one year.