Crowded library receives shelf space

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Laura Graesser

More than 170,000 books are missing from the University main library. Don’t worry – they haven’t been stolen, lost or thrown away.

Instead, the missing books have found a new home with the recent opening of the Oak Street Library Facility, 809 S. Oak St., Champaign. The Oak Street facility is a high-density storage facility aimed to ease the overcrowding that has plagued University libraries for years.

“With the Main Library reaching filled capacity of 6 million volumes seven years ago, a lot of material has ended up sitting on the floor,” said Betsy Kruger, head of circulation and book stacks at the Main Library.

Initial ideas to solve the overcrowding problem included adding another stack to the Main Library, but the University turned to a more cost-effective solution with the high-density warehouse storage.

High-density refers to the type of shelving and arrangement that is used, according to Oak Street facility’s Web site. Materials are stored in bins on 40-foot-high, industrial-type warehouse shelving. Books are stored according to size, and bar codes will be used instead of call numbers to track the material, the Web site said.

“Many large research universities like Harvard and Yale have chosen this type of library,” Kruger said. “But unlike Harvard, whose facility is 25 miles from their campus, the Oak Street facility is right on campus.”

Users can only request materials through the library’s online catalog, http://www.library.uiuc.edu/. It takes about the same time to get a book from the facility as any of the other University libraries. There is also a public reading room at the new facility for patrons to look at large amounts of material on site.

While the Oak Street facility currently contains 170,000 volumes, facility manager John Andrick said library employees hope to transfer 800,000 volumes by the end of 2005.

“We are processing 2,500 pieces a day,” Andrick said.

The first storage facility will eventually be filled to capacity with 1.8 million volumes, and there are plans to build three additional facilities in the future for a combined capacity of 6.8 million volumes.

Choosing the material to store in the Oak Street facility has been a major part of the project. Material that is taken out of the University libraries and moved into the storage facility fits into two categories, Kruger said.

“We chose volumes that are low-use and haven’t been circulated in at least 20 years, or serials and journals that the University has electronic equivalents of,” Kruger said.

Students, librarians and professors have been involved in the process of selecting material to move out of the main stacks into the Oak Street facility, where the book vault has a filtering system and is kept at 50 degrees and 35 percent humidity for preservation.

“It is a very clean environment,” Kruger said. “At those conditions, paper can be stored for longevity.”

To ensure optimal preservation conditions, students hired to work at Oak Street have the responsibility of cleaning volumes before they enter the warehouse.

“We vacuum the pages of the books to clean them and then size them to the right bin,” said freshman in LAS Jacob Hill, who works at the facility.

With the completion and opening of the Oak Street Library Facility, the University libraries will soon find relief from crowded shelves and piles of books on the floor. While most of the volumes at the new facility are from the Main Library, departmental libraries will soon begin to send over their excess material.

“We’ve been pulling books and journals to ship over,” said Lori Carroll, who works at the library of sciences. “We’re looking forward to having more shelf space.”

As time passes and the Oak Street Library Facility is utilized and expanded, Andrick said the main stacks and departmental libraries will one day be functioning at only two-thirds of its capacity, aiding all who use the libraries.

“The Oak Street facility will make everything more accessible to the patron and make maintenance at the library easier,” Andrick said. “Everyone at the library has been very anxious and elated that this facility has been seen through its completion.”

For more information, go to www.library.uiuc.edu/circ/oak/oak.htm.