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Seven Secrets about the Stacks: Could someone disappear down there?

Posted In: Behind the Scenes, State Library Resource Center
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By Brian Manning

Stacks LibrarianIf you’ve ever visited the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Central Library location, then you know how large of a building it is—filled with bound volumes of passed-down thoughts from bygone ages, as well as today.  And if you’ve ever come to the Central Library looking for a specific item, the librarian assisting you may have disappeared for a few minutes to retrieve the item from the ubiquitous Stacks. Here are seven facts about the Stacks you may not know:

  • There are three levels of Stacks beneath the first floor of the Central Library, which run the length of the city block. There are also smaller sections of Stacks located on the 2nd and 3rd floors. It is for this reason that…

  • Approximately 70% of the Pratt Library’s entire collection can be found in the Stacks.

  • Fallout SignDuring the 1950’s, the bottom, first stack was designated by the government as a fallout shelter, and was supplied with large drums containing food and water (All that is left of this designation today are some fallout shelter signs on the first stack).

  • The rigid metal shelving units that make up the Stacks are integral to the building’s infrastructure, acting as a steel skeletal framework. The Central Library is thus literally being held up by the books it houses.

  • Approximately 3000-5000 returned items are sorted in the basement everyday by the Stacks & Shelving Department, and then returned to their proper areas in the library.

  • Given the above figures, is it any wonder that the hardworking Stacks & Shelving Department won the prestigious Enoch Pratt Free Library Department of the Year Award for 2012?

  • The Stacks & Shelving Department is also responsible for hosting the Annual Book Sale, which occurs every first weekend in December at the Central Library. The manager of Stacks & Shelving, David Baldwin, estimates that there will be approximately 80,000 items for sale at this year’s event.

Stacks HallAlthough no one has gotten seriously lost in the Stacks, their sheer size makes them labyrinthine and intimidating; but once immersed in their depths, wandering through the Stacks becomes an adventure, because you never know what treasures you’ll find.

Come out and indulge your treasure-hunter instincts, while at the same time supporting the Library by attending this year’s Annual Book Sale, which begins today, Friday, November 30, and run through Sunday, December 2. And if you come to the Book Sale on Sunday, you can fill your own box with goodies for only $3.00. (If you need a box, it is $4.00.) Hope to see you there!


Great post Brian - I missed this when published but am glad I looked up your back pages! Yes, I have spent hours exploring the stacks. They are a time tunnel burrowing into the past and contain some of the best out-of-print books and magazines. I like looking in the old mags to see what was happening when I was born, or what was happening when my parents were born, too.
Posted by: Tom Warner at 12/13/2012 9:57 a.m.


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