Library Issues
Editor: Richard M. Dougherty, University of Michigan, Ann P. Dougherty
Contributing Editors: Mignon Adams, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia; Steve Marquardt, South Dakota State University; William Miller, Florida Atlantic University; Maureen Pastine, Temple University
Vol. 20, No. 1 September 1999

The Need for New Space
and Storage Facilities

by Maureen Pastine
with Jean Dorrian and Ann Dougherty


The no-growth academic library continues to be a myth, even in an age of ever-increasing technological access to electronic information. The new technologies have actually increased the need, in some ways, for additional space for new types of access and work-related functions.

Students continue to request seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day access to many academic libraries’ resources. They make it clear that to them the library is far more than the sum total of its stacks and networked collections. It is a place to meet and exchange ideas, a place for studied reflection and quiet contemplation. It is a place for collaborative learning, a place to find assistance in scholarly study and research, and a place to become a vital part of new conversations in the scholarly world of the campus community. It is, and will remain, the intellectual commons of our university community.

It is doubtful that any other campus facility serves as broad and as diverse a community, or as many users, as do university libraries. They provide support and information resources and knowledge management service to hundreds of degree programs, as well as many other outside community and visiting scholar users. Academic libraries serve most of the schools and colleges in a variety of ways, some more than others, but none can say that the library has not served at least a portion of each school’s student/faculty body and administrative offices. They often provide assistance to multiple off-site campuses and some international program sites. All are involved in consortial interlibrary loan agreements in which they provide thousands of loans and borrow thousands of items for their own primary clientele.

New Kinds of Space Needed
Thus, the need for physical space is no less today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. We need new types of physical space to house new types of access devices and equipment that just were not foreseen in the not too distant past. Yes, some digital information takes up considerably less physical space than traditional print materials, but it does require new types of “access and service” space—space that includes added cabling/wiring, expensive equipment, and that has considerable space requirements for user workstations. Digital information also requires improved acoustical space to reduce sounds, to allow for one-on-one teaching, and separate individual and group spaces.

Many academic libraries existing today, were built in the 1960s or earlier. They were often designed to accommodate a collection of one or a few million volumes and enough reader stations to seat up to 30 percent or more of the total enrollment. However, most libraries this old no longer have sufficient shelving or seating capacity. As new acquisitions were added and existing shelves filled, library user workstations were displaced with new shelving. The stacks now often house at least twice the number of volumes as originally intended. In addition, as the new technologies were adopted, many of the reader stations were displaced with electronic access workstations/labs/classrooms that have created acoustical problems for staff and user alike. These are often high-use areas, often with library users standing in line waiting their turn at the limited numbers of personal computer workstations.

Criticism of the present libraries’ environment continues to grow as students, faculty, and other scholars alike continue to be frustrated with the outdated, outmoded, and “dreary” library facilities. Departmental libraries face many of the same problems—inadequate space for staff operations, user services, and new acquisitions—both traditional and electronic, inadequate service hours, inadequate reader space and personal computer workstations, acoustical problems, lighting problems, and other similar complaints.

This need to free up space for new higher demand acquisitions and new technology services and equipment/furnishings is the reason why most of the larger research university libraries, as well as many other academic libraries, see a great need for remote storage facilities for older, lesser-used, and special collections and archival materials that require special HVAC and humidity controls.

Options in Remote Storage
Storage facilities though are still a controversial topic among faculty and students, librarians, and university administrators. Some faculty and students resent any library materials, no matter how little used, to be stored outside of the traditional library buildings. Others are willing to accept storage of such items if the storage facility is on the campus. Others are willing to accept off-site storage if there is rapid turnaround time for delivery, or if there are limited hours for on-site browsing. Selection of materials for storage continues to remain a consultative process among library personnel and faculty/researchers.

Weeding, or deselection of library materials, is an issue that should be discussed in relation to planning for a remote storage facility. There are some who believe that extensive weeding of little or no-use demand materials can resolve the need for remote storage facilities. Most libraries have conducted some weeding over the years, but shelves are still often crowded with print materials. Much of this material cannot be reduced further without a detrimental impact on scholarship by students, faculty, and visiting scholars. Thus, the need for remote storage for lesser-used but highly crucial materials for in-depth scholarship is usually considered a necessity.

Regardless of the final decision, weeding should be conducted on a periodic basis. Remote storage facilities costs are not inexpensive, however, and choices have to be made about how many materials that are in low or no demand are really necessary to archive in order to free up space needed for newer acquisitions with higher demand and use. This would allow the libraries to provide research access to lower demand, but valuable and/or unique materials, needed by scholars/researchers and others. And, as others in a region, or nationally, archive in storage facilities or through digital means, an academic library needs to consider whether or not they need to duplicate resources not often used in some fields.

Remaining growth space in a library, if any, is another consideration when planning for the need for a remote storage facility, along with how long the library might feel that such storage must be maintained. The library also needs to consider whether or not the storage facility will be compact storage, regular shelving, or some other form of storage capacity. In addition, the type of storage continues to vary widely depending upon fiscal resources, space needed and that can be made available, and whether or not services on-site are necessary or not. There are also decisions to be made that relate to whether the storage space is to be leased, rented, outsourced, or owned by the university or consortium.

Current Trends and Examples
Available data from the Association of Research Libraries suggests that close to 80 of the 122 members now use some sort of secondary storage facility. The typical new facility is a cold-storage warehouse that maximizes the use of space through high-density shelving.1 Some are regional, some are institutional. The University of California opened a northern regional facility in 1982 and a southern regional one in 1987. Some campuses are more than 100 miles from the site. At the University of Michigan, the remote storage site is less than a mile from central campus.

The Harvard Depository, the first, large high-density library storage facility, built in 1986, is still not outdated. Over the years, more and more universities have followed suit in building warehouses for lower demand resources. These include Ohio University, Columbia, Yale, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Texas at Austin. Parts of other university libraries are archived and accessed through the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) in Chicago.2 The primary reason for moving materials to storage facilities (other than space) is cost, which can be as little as one-fifteenth of that of a traditional library building. These climate-controlled storage sites also assist with preservation thus keeping that budget managable.3

The University of Pennsylvania opened a high-density storage facility in May of 1998 to relieve the book stacks, which were filled to capacity by 1997. Librarians there point out that their new facility will “prevent a crisis in their stacks at a much lower cost to the University than converting to transitional media or building a new library at well over $75 million.” Technology does play a pivotal part in their alternative scheme, by providing inexpensive storage methods and systems for rapid communication and information delivery…(In 1997, new library construction costs in the U.S. ranged from $86 to $263 per square foot!). 4

This past Spring, Columbia University, Princeton, and the New York Public Library announced that they are planning a climate-controlled storage facility at Princeton’s James Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, New Jersey to open by 2001. In its first phase, this warehouse will house seven million volumes of lesser-used items. Shuttle vans will make deliveries within 24 hours. High-density storage techniques will allow materials to be housed by size and shape. These three institution libraries are to complete this joint storage facility with a focus on cost-effectiveness and improved climate control to preserve materials.

The most important part of the announcement is that “the shared library represents a change in the mindset for university librarians.” Instead of competitively bragging about the number of volumes in the library, university officials are cooperatively providing the best service for their faculty and students. “The arrangement is an unusual collaboration between libraries that once competed over which had the largest holdings.”5

Cooperation may be the wave of the future as this crisis faces all research libraries. Digital media has not meant a decrease in the need for space as books, journals, and other traditional resources continue to explode. High density storage is becoming more and more common, and necessary, as libraries need more and more space for enhanced user services and seating.6

Special Needs of Remote Storage Facilities
Once the decision has been made to use a remote facility site, and the selection of materials for storage has been made, the types of materials to be housed in storage also requires decisions to be made on a number of needs for:

California State University at Northridge has an automated storage and retrieval system where materials are stored in bins and retrieved by cranes via computer commands. One at Harvard uses high industrial shelving components with lifts to transport staff members to stored bins. Although even more space savings can be incorporated using such methods, there are disadvantages with such storage facilities. They do not allow browsability, which is why many faculty and scholars oppose remote storage facilities. A benefit of remote storage for some scholars, however, might be that longer charge-outs can be made available for little used, low-demand materials.

In future years, there will, undoubtedly, be new methods of storage through digitizing and making duplicative older resources available online from one remote site rather than from many different more traditional remote storage facilities. Microformating of some older materials was one space-saving measure often used in the past. The problem most of us had was that we did not like using microform materials–not to mention that such formats often were not indexed well, with appropriate analytics. With today’s digital transmission capabilities, however, the microformat not only provides excellent preservation, but it is now relatively easy to digitize from the microformat and transmit the information electronically.

Benefits of a Remote Storage Facility
There is a growing need for expansion of electronic access areas to meet additional and new service demands. And as technology transforms the traditional library into a more technologically sophisticated information environment, there is a growing need to improve, expand, and enhance other services and user education programs. However, there are always those scholars who have a need for the low-demand or unique resources that libraries are finding so difficult to find space for. New service space is needed for technological information access, including electronic resource
centers, and scholar’s information networked workstations/labs/classrooms. These are best located within library buildings that are more centrally located and provide longer service hours than many other campus service buildings.

Often faculty and graduate student carrel space has been decimated to house unique and valuable, as well as growing, special collections and archival materials. Until a remote storage facility is made available, the renovations needed to upgrade and make libraries into more functional and aesthetically pleasing scholarly environments will have to remain largely on hold. But once space is freed up for such changes, the library can offer improved, expanded, and enhanced quality of services in the main university libraries and departmental libraries. Library users will be more supportive of such an improved study and research environment. Staff can be more efficient and productive if low demand materials are removed from general circulation shelving space.

The benefits of providing a remote storage facility are in improving the quality of preservation of unique and valuable resources. A storage facility can more easily provide improved HVAC, humidity control, and security, as well as low lighting that improves preservation of unique and valuable library resources.
Another benefit is financial. It is less costly to store lesser-used material in compact storage units when “open” public access is not required. Compact storage units can house far more volumes per shelving range than that in a regular “open stacks” type of space where users require greater space in which to browse. In addition storage facilities do not require the same amount of staffing support that a user-oriented open stacks library needs.

Downside of Not Proceeding
Without the establishment of remote storage facilities, the libraries will face numerous problems, i.e.:

Some Important Points
Given that about half the nation’s academic libraries already have remote storage facilities, we should look at some of the major concerns surrounding the movement.

Reasons for relocation of materials range from those in need of preservation, to older imprints, to certain subject areas, lack of circulation, gift collections of uncataloged materials, and even to format of the publication (e.g., older microforms). Most libraries will return items to the circulating collections if the frequency of use has increased or there is a new teaching need for the materials.

Delivery of items requested from remote storage facilities varies from one library to another. Most require the completion of a paper or electronic form such as an e-mail request form. Turnaround time also varies from a few hours to 24 or 48 hours, but seldom longer. Some facilities may allow users limited hours during a weekday for browsing or working within the facility itself. Some libraries especially those in a consortial operation, are staffed so that responses are more rapid and staffing from different libraries is unnecessary for retrieval and delivery purposes.

Compact shelving is one of the real benefits of remote storage. It provides up to two or four times the number of volumes to be shelved in comparison to ordinary stack shelving with wide aisles for disabled access.

Budget issues range from cost of construction/lease/rent/purchase to shelving cost, maintenance and utilities costs. Other budget issues include security costs, processing costs, vehicle for delivery cost, staffing costs on- and off- site, telecommunications and equipment costs, furnishings costs, supply costs, HVAC and humidity control costs, janitorial costs, retrieval and re-shelving operation costs, electrical and equipment maintenance cost, and similar costs.

Preservation is another strong argument for having access to a remote storage facility. This can often be the best facility for these purposes, including consideration of a lab in which to treat fragile and deteriorating items.

Use of/Access to Collections
A large portion of any university libraries’ collections tends to have very low in-house use or circulation outside of the building. Some estimate that only about one-third of the items in a circulating collection account for almost 80 percent of use. Most of the recent circulating items in university libraries come from a core 10 percent of eligible items. However, those materials receiving low use in a general circulating collection will receive even less use once they are moved to a remote storage facility. Even so, most academic libraries could store up to one-third of their collection and still meet close to 100 percent of the demand from library users. Science and technology older materials tend to receive the least use; social and behavioral science the next least use within older imprints; humanities older materials receive the greatest use.
One of the most important goals to reach for in planning for a remote storage facility is provision of effective inventory control and good and rapid access to the materials stored there. Websites are being used to provide current information to users and electronic document delivery is becoming a more prevalent means of providing documents.

It is crucial to continue to understand the need for library buildings and remote storage facilities. The “virtual library” will not replace the library of bricks and mortar. A “virtual library” may support access to information regardless of the barriers imposed by time and space, but a library is more than what’s on the stacks inside. It is a place to meet, to study, to learn, to discover; if lesser used materials can be better maintained in a remote storage facility, and still accessed readily, then that is the best place for them.

1Jan Merrill-Oldham and Jutta Reed-Scott, comps., Library Storage Facilities, Management, and Services, SPEC Kit #242. Washington, D.C.: Association of Research Libraries, 1999. (SPEC Flyer, May 1999, p.1)
2David C. Weber, “The ‘Compact’ Future of Library Collections,” Opinion: Letters to the Editor, The Chronicle of Higher Education, (December 5, 1997). p. B10
3Jeffrey R. Young, “In the New Model of the Research Library, Unused Books Are Out, Computers Are In,” Information Technology, The Chronicle of Higher Education, (October 17, 1997) p. A27-28.
4Jackie Vargo, “Library Opens High Density Storage Facility,” Penn Library News, (Fall, No. 2, 1998).
5Jeffrey R. Young, “3 Top Research Libraries Plan Vast, New Facility to Store Little-Used Books,” Information Technology, The Chronicle of Higher Education, (April 30, 1999), p. A26.
6Karen W. Arenson, “Packed Libraries Seek Answer in Storage,” The New York Times, (March 22, 1999). p. E22


Selected Bibliography

  • American Association of Law Libraries, Southwest Chapter. Meeting (1996: Austin, Texas). A Space Odyssey Justifying and Planning for Space in the 21st Century. Austin, Texas, Reliable Communication, 1996. Recording. 1 sound cassette. Tape 4. Speakers: Carol D. Billings, Ann Puckett, James S. Heller.)
  • Axelroth, Joan L. Space Planning in the Age of Technology. Marietta, GA: Library Specialists, 1996. (Caption title. Issued as: Legal Information Management Reports, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Summer 1996).
  • Bellanti, Claire Q. “Access to Library Materials in Remote Storage,” Collection Management, Haworth Press, 1992. pp. 93-103.
  • Cargill, Jennifer. “Storage and Libraries: Realistic Warehousing of Library Materials,” Library Issues: Briefings for Faculty and Administrators. (May 1990, Vol. 10, No. 6: 3-4).
  • Council on Library and Information Resources. Comprehensive Access to Off-Site Print Materials at Johns Hopkins University. Washington, D.C., The Council on Library and Information Resources, 1997. (Council on Library and Information Resources. Research Brief; 3).
  • Dancik, Deborah Bloomfiled and Emelie Jensen Shroder, eds. Building Blocks for Library Space: Functional Guidelines. Chicago, American Library Association, 1995.
  • Fussler, Herman H. and Julian L. Simon. Patterns in the Use of Books in Large Research Libraries. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1969.
  • Kaufman, Paula T. and Aubrey H. Mitchell. SPEC Flyer 200: 2001: A Space Reality: Strategies for Obtaining Funding for New Library Space. Washington, D.C., Association of Research Libraries, September 10, 1996. 3 p.
  • Lougee, Wendy. “A Remote Shelving Facility Retrofit: The University of Michigan Experience,” in The Great Divide: Challenges of Remote Storage. James Kennedy and Gloria Stockton, eds. Chicago, American Library Association, 1991.
  • Lougee, Wendy P. “Remote Shelving Comes of Age: Storage Collection Management at the University of Michigan,” Collection Management, 1992.
  • Lougee, Wendy P. “Remote Shelving Comes of Age: Storage Collection Management at the University of Michigan,” Collection Management, 1992.
  • Matier, Michael William. Developing a Strategic Plan for Library Space Needs Through 2010. Alexandria, VA, ERIC Document Reproduction Service, 1992. ED 349 024.
  • Seaman, Scott and Donna De George. "Selecting and Moving Books to a Remote Depository: A Case Study,” Collection Management. 16 (1) 1992: 137-142.
  • Steele, Virginia, comp. Remote Storage: Facilities, Materials Selection and User Services. SPEC Kit #164: Washington, D.C., Office of Management Services, Association of Research Libraries, May 1990.

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