A New Chapter at the Rakow Library

When the Museum opened in 1951, it included a “Glass Reference Library” which was to be the world’s “library of record” on glass and glassmaking, open and accessible to the public. The original collection numbered about 2,000 volumes.

Today, the Juliette K. and Leonard S. Rakow Research Library (named in honor of two of its major supporters) has more than 400,000 books and paper-based artifacts related to glass. Thanks to the Library’s strong reputation, artists, collectors, and other institutions continually donate archives and collections, and the Library has recently upgraded its collection area to accommodate growth.

Earlier this year, the library staff implemented a compact shelving solution: units that sit on a carriage and move back and forth easily with the turn of a handle, creating more efficiency in the use of space.

Also the shelving can be tailored to meet specific collection needs, allowing improvements to the way materials are stored. For instance, jumbo rare books are now laid flat on their own individual shelves which pull out, lessening the need to handle the objects.

During construction, all materials in the area had to be temporarily moved. The library staff started at the end of 2007 to prepare the collection for the move. In October 2009, Naglee Fine Arts moved the materials – a nine-day process.

Special raised rubber flooring was used in the space; each tile had been sent to Canada to be covered with a special epoxy that would not emit gasses harmful to the collection. Railings were laid down, and the entire space sealed. The Library took the opportunity to also upgrade environmental controls.

The collection began to move back in early May; the move was complete by June 4. Much of the collection is installed, but work still continues.

The library believes that, when the compact shelving is fully reinstalled with the current collection, it will still offer a growth capacity of 300 percent.