Harrow Green has long been at the forefront of service providers for libraries planning a relocation or refurbishment. Designing Libraries interviewed Nigel Dews, Managing Director, to find out what their own recent move to become part of Restore Plc means for their specialist services to libraries.
DL: Harrow Green has grown from a London-based office relocation business to become a national provider of relocation services and widely known as something of a specialist in library and archive moves. Do libraries present you with a different sort of challenge?
ND: We built our experience in office moves, initially in London and then in the main cities across England and Scotland, in financial and law businesses, but in businesses of all types and sizes who need to move, redefine space, redeploy people or make better use of their buildings.
One of our first major projects in the libraries sector was being involved in the British Library St Pancras move. Since then we’ve gone on to work with local authorities and universities on important library moves. For example, the David Wilson Library at the University of Leicester and, currently, working on the refurbishment of Manchester Central Library.
We’ve developed specific methodologies for libraries and archives. There are several important factors that always feature in any move: taking care of valuable items; sequential packing so we always know where everything is and, importantly, just where it’s going and which shelf it will sit on.
DL: Moving a library can be daunting for the staff on the ground, who don’t make a habit of planning complex logistics. How do you fit into the bigger picture?
ND: It’s important to get involved at the beginning of a project. We can often advise on the use of space at an early stage, and help the library team plan and think through the various steps they need to take. And we have specialist people focused on IT moves which is now, of course, an important part of the library infrastructure. We also project manage and co-ordinate library moves with other partners involved, such as architects, builders, designers, shelving suppliers, and we plan the storage of materials and access to them during the move so we minimise disruption to services.
DL: Restore Plc are specialists in document storage and retrieval. Does that make a difference to the services you can now offer libraries?
ND: Yes. An important part of our role has always been to provide both onsite and offsite storage, interim or permanent, for books, documents, archives and other records. Now that we have the full range of Restore facilities available to us, we can provide regional storage, climate controlled where appropriate, on a more permanent basis for libraries that need to locate some of their materials, perhaps less well used stock, to offsite locations but still have rapid online access and delivery facilities.
DL: Does the future still look bright to you in these straightened times?
ND: Well, as long as people keep moving we will always have something to do! There’s a lot of change in the library world, and change is our business. Whether it’s a new library or the consolidation of existing sites or the creation of new service ‘hubs’, librarians I think will always welcome the support of a business that is in the business of change management, not just a service ‘bought in’ to move things, but part of a team enabled to plan confidently for the future.