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Transportation of Special Collections Materials: Packing & Preparing Materials


Special collections materials must be properly packed according to the following standards and protocols. Proper packing must not be compromised for any reason.


  • Bound materials without housings (boxes) should be wrapped in tissue or paper and then wrapped with plastic bubble wrap to prevent damage (dents, water damage, or rough handling). This is especially true for materials that are fragile and/or damaged/deteriorated (materials routed to Preservation).
  • Paper does not need to be archival, but it should be clean and free of adhesives, dirt, and tape.
  • Any packing tape should be affixed to the bubble wrap only (not the paper) so it does not stick to the collection items.
  • Books should be packed spine down, side by side, with filler material like crumbled paper or rolled bubble wrap in the empty spaces to prevent tipping and shifting of the books.
  • Oversized books should be packed flat.
  • When packing an object, remember its inherent strengths and weaknesses and pack it accordingly. Objects should be shipped in the position in which they are sturdiest.
    • For example, paintings ship upright on their edge, but artwork on paper should ship flat.
    • The NEDCC web site has detailed instructions for packing audiovisual materials and paper artifacts.
  • Archival materials should be housed in folders and placed in a box.
    • Consider placing that box inside a second box for shipment.

Use sturdy shipping boxes. Special collections must be protected from the elements by bins or other appropriate housing.

  • If you are using a shipping vendor and need to provide shipping boxes, they should be solid enough to protect their contents and free of dents and deformations.
  • Consider using double boxes—an inner box and an outer box—to protect collections. 
  • Consider lining the outermost container with a large, clean, heavy-duty plastic trash bag to prevent moisture and water seeping into totes.
    • The bag should be sealed (taped or tied) after the collection items are packed. This is an important measure to take when collections must be shipped in inclement weather.

Library Collection Services (LCS) owns several styles of containers (often referred to as crates, bins, or totes) that can be used to transport library materials when LCS is used.

All containers must be sealed using a numbered zip tie. If you need numbered zip ties, you can request them from LCS by sending them an email.

All containers must be labeled on the outside with destination/location code and an individual's attention (e.g. PR 344 ATTN: Tara Kennedy From: DV). Please use label templates provided in the Documents section of this guide.

Oversized and folio-sized materials:

  • Use shipping containers or totes that will accommodate larger materials, if possible.
    • For LCS shipments, the totes with the “PR” barcode fit most oversized and folio book materials (up to 12.25” W or 16.25” L in size) - NOTE: this is the maximum size that LSF will accept for book materials due to transportation limitations.
    • Example: oversized book in tote
  • Use portfolios on panel trucks (PT barcode), flatbeds (F barcode), or map carts to transport anything larger than the above referenced dimensions.
    • Each panel truck will be assigned 2 portfolio cases. Example: portfolio case on panel truck
    • Note that portfolio cases on panel trucks and map carts are currently available only for transport between special collections, not to or from shelving at LSF
    • Previously, boxes and folders transported on flatbed trucks have been wrapped in tarps, but we are gradually replacing the tarps with soft-sided nylon portfolio covers.  They are water resistant and easier to close completely. Example: soft-sided nylon portfolio cover
  • Use padding (e.g. newsprint, bubble wrap, foam) in spaces inside the tote, portfolio or other container to prevent items from moving or shifting.
    • Pack portfolios so that they are able to be tipped, tilted, and shipped vertically whenever possible; use sufficient padding to prevent movement of the object inside of the portfolio.
    • Position and place the collection materials appropriately (toward the bottom of the case) to make them easier to move using the handles and to keep from tipping.
    • For flat, single sheets and small groups of sheets, use the inner portfolio and velcro "photo corners" to keep items flat and in place. Example: open portfolio with corners.

Born-digital media (Hard drives, CDs, DVDs, flash drives, and floppy, ZIP and JAZ disks):

  • Pack CDs, DVDs, and disks on their edge--that is, they should be in a vertical position rather than laid flat. This is to minimize the surface area that could be hit in case of impact.
  • Media such as disks, CDs, and DVDs should be housed in sleeves or other enclosures to prevent scratches. They should never be packed loose in a box. 
  • Individual hard drives or other media should not be able to move or shift inside the shipping container. They should be boxed if possible, and foam spacers used as needed. Keep sides of drives away from the sides of the containers.
  • Label boxes on the outside to alert others to the magnetic media inside; the Digital Accessioning Service has labels for containers (see "Documents" on this LibGuide's front page). Keep the media and shipping containers away from magnetic items.
  • Please remember that the Digital Accessioning Service requires notification prior to shipment. Refer to the Digital Accessioning Service instructions regarding scheduling your shipment.

For fragile or unusual objects, contact the Preventive Conservation for advice and assistance.

Security Measures:

Ideally no package or container with special collections or any University property should leave the sending units without verification of its contents.  For all transfers of special collections outside between collections, units should have a checks and balances procedure in place where more than one person verifies what is included in a package or shipping container before it is sealed. Such a procedure must be in place and followed for shipment by any approved non-Library campus or external vendors.

Individual Library units and special collections may have additional required security measures that must be incorporated in the packing and shipping process.  For assistance in instituting or evaluating a checks and balances protocol, contact Lynn Ieronimo, Director of Library Security.