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Penn Libraries News

Books on the Move: Changes in the Van Pelt Stacks

Updated 9/20/23. The Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center stacks is undergoing a multi-phase refresh and reorganization. Read on to find out more about the changes you’ll see in the stacks.

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The Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center stacks is undergoing a multi-phase refresh and reorganization. This work, which will continue through the 2024 academic year, will help us better position our print collections to meet the present needs of our library community and anticipate future developments and expansion of our collections. 

The ongoing project is allowing us to quickly catch up on work that was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and take a proactive approach to managing our stacks to ensure we continue to have space for our collections to grow. 

Read on to find out more about the changes you’ll see in the Van Pelt stacks. 

Project Timeline 

Please note that all dates are approximate and subject to changes. 

Summer 2022–Summer 2023 (completed)

  • Integration of the Reference Collection into the General Stacks 
  • Transfer of Selected Items to LIBRA 
  • Transfer of the 900s to LIBRA 

June–August 2022 (completed)

  • Removal and Replacement of 4th Floor Compact Shelving 

September 2022–June 2023 (completed)

  • Transfer of Selected Items to LIBRA

Summer 2023 (completed)

  • Shifting and Realignment of Van Pelt Collections
    • Library of Congress classes A-L are now shelved alphabetically on the 3rd floor.
      • The Lippincott collection and Library of Congress class H will be integrated into an expanded Lippincott collection on the 3rd floor.
    • Library of Congress classes M-Z are now shelved alphabetically on the 4th floor. M will remain in its current footprint on the 4th floor.
    • The East Asia collection remains on the 5th floor. 

During the 2024 Academic Year

  • Some items will be shifted to and within the new Center for Global Collections (CGC) on the 5th floor.
    •       Selected titles in Library of Congress classes C-L are currently in the CGC on the 5th floor and are being shifted within that floor this fall.
    •       The CGC material in other Library of Congress classes, currently on the 3rd and 4th floors, will be moved to the 5th floor later this winter. 
  • Folios that are temporarily located at LIBRA will also be moved back to Van Pelt. 

What to expect: Books on the move! There will also be occasional noise and disruption on the 5th floor. 
What we recommend: Check back soon for an updated timeline and information on how to find the current location of these materials.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Where are books moving within Van Pelt? 

Some books are simply moving from one area of the Van Pelt stacks to another. These collections will be rearranged in alphabetical order by call number so it will be easier to find what you need. Shifting these collections will also help us rebalance capacity so there’s space to add new items in print.

Many reference items, like some specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries, have been integrated into the circulating collection so you can now borrow them for the first time. 

Which books are moving to LIBRA? And how can I get them after they move? 

Most of the items that have moved to LIBRA are duplicate copies of books that will remain in Van Pelt or older material that is no longer referenced as frequently by patrons. In some cases, the books we’ve moved offsite are now available electronically. 

Interested in getting a book from LIBRA? Simply request it through the Franklin catalog! It will arrive on campus—at the library of your choice—in one to two business days. 

I’m used to finding books where they are now! How can I find out their new location? 

Books that have already shifted can be found through a simple search in the Franklin catalog. By the end of September, we’ll also update the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center Floor Plans, which are available in Franklin and on the library website, and the stacks maps, which you can find in every elevator in the building.

If you’re looking for a book that’s moving this fall or winter (see timeline above), check back soon for an updated timeline and more information about how to find these materials.

Why remove the compact shelving? Doesn’t it give us space for more books? 

The compact shelving units were installed in the 1980s and they have become increasingly prone to mechanical failure. Replacing these shelves with regular static library shelving ensures that we can give you continuous and uninterrupted access to the library collections in Van Pelt. 

Why can’t all our books be kept on campus? 

Like most large academic libraries, our collection is simply too big to be held exclusively on campus. The Libraries’ print and digital collections include more than 6 million books, plus journals, databases, streaming video, musical scores, and more, with materials in more than 400 languages.  

And our collection is still growing! Our librarians work closely with faculty and other scholars to identify growing research areas and select new or underrepresented works that would help advance scholarship in the Penn community. Rather than discarding older and less-used items to make room for newer additions, we keep them safe, organized, and accessible offsite, so they can be delivered quickly to campus when they’re needed. 

More information 

As with any project of this size and scope, we anticipate that you may have additional questions. Please feel free to contact the Transfer Coordination Team at for more information. As the project proceeds, we will periodically share updates on this webpage.