High Bay Shelving Facility

Establishing the Foundation

Every university and every university library is different, so it’s important to take the broadest view possible when evaluating the needs of the community when considering a high-bay shelving facility. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, for instance, established committees to recommend strategies that would strengthen core library functions, redesign campus spaces to create new learning environments, locate related collections closer together, and streamline processes.

We’re taking libraries back to what they originally were: spaces to create the scholarship of the future surrounded by the scholarship of the past.

-Catherine Murray-Rust, “Creating the Next Research Library,” ALA Midwinter Meeting, January 2017



With a growing focus on student recruitment and retention, campus leaders are seeing a need for more open and collaborative spaces. Libraries occupy valuable campus real estate and can demonstrate new models of teaching and learning.



New learning spaces support aTctive learning by “flipping” the traditional instructional model. Instead of lecturing in class and assigning homework, instructors often ask students to watch online lectures before class in order to use class time to work on projects and consult with the instructor. Read how the University of Wisconsin-Madison is making this transformation here.



As libraries change from places where media are consumed to places where media are also produced, makerspaces are gaining in popularity and prominence.



Visualization labs are black-box rooms that offer immersive experiences, often using extreme wide-angle projections on multiple walls and screens. These rooms can host presentations of large-scale visualizations and simulations on a high-definition display surface.



Some modern libraries are designed with auditoria, rooftop gardens, and other spaces to accommodate special events.



Even at a time when research universities are emphasizing digital strategies, libraries continue to acquire a substantial volume of print-based books and journals every year. The construction of new high-density shelving facilities enables universities to honor their obligations to store print-based materials while still gaining space on campus to offer modern library services.

Acquiring Funding

As you consider project funding, keep in mind that contracts offer a powerful purchasing option. Contracts are systems set up by state governments and other organizations to evaluate products and negotiate pricing with esteemed vendors-a process that in turn allows government, education, non-profit organizations, and other groups to save time and money when purchasing those vendors’ products. Most libraries and archives in the U.S. and Canada can purchase Spacesaver products at a deep discount by using NJPA, National IPA, and/or state contracts.

You don’t get political support without great customer service. And political support is what gets you funding.

-Catherine Murray-Rust, “Creating the Next Research Library,” ALA Midwinter Meeting, January 2017

Gathering Data

Consolidating the contents of a complex, campus-wide library network into offsite shelving requires a deliberate plan of action. And in a process that can sometimes get emotional, it’s important to gather the facts.

This Includes:

  • Circulation statistics
  • Gate counts
  • Shelf space
  • Square footage of various libraries
  • Library services (currently offered and desired)
  • Staffing levels and job descriptions (current and desired)
  • Current budgets for various libraries around campus
  • Preferred storage conditions (temperature, relative humidity, etc.)
  • Current costs of off-site storage, if applicable

Building a More Economical Solution

Wake forest University decided to build a high-bay shelving facility due to the expense and inconvenience of renting space off campus. The university was charged by the linear foot for storing books and had to pay a fee anytime a book was retrieved, and again when the item was returned to the storage facility. “That was cost-prohibitive,” said Mary Beth Lock, Director of Access Services at Z. Smith Reynolds Library. “It really wasn’t a model that we could continue to use.”

Evolving Roles

As library materials shift, so do the roles of library professionals. While their work still centers on knowledge and information, library professionals at the UW-Madison are spending less time helping patrons find printed materials and more time helping students and researchers discover, evaluate, understand, and share information from a variety of sources.

  • Assisting students with electronic research tools, including bibliographic management tools
  • Helping students, faculty, and other researchers develop data management plans and research portfolios
  • Supporting digital scholarship and sharing new ways of disseminating scholarship
  • Teaching students about informational literacy concepts, copyright laws, and intellectual property concerns.

Librarians can’t sit in the building and wait for people to come in and engage. They need to get out on campus and be more entrepreneurial. That’s a completely different job. We’re asking them to be different kinds of people.

-Catherine Murray-Rust, “Creating the Next Research Library,” ALA Midwinter Meeting, January 2017

Educating Stakeholders

For libraries at many large research institutions, the bidding process for the design and construction of an off-site facility is out of their hands. A separate division of the university – or even an entirely different state agency – is required to oversee the bid process and accept the lowest bid for architectural and building services.

In these instances, it’s vitally important to educate the bid process supervisors about the importance of selecting experienced architects and contractors who thoroughly understand the complexities of designing and building a high-bay facility.

If that isn’t possible, library professionals should take steps soon after the winning bids are announced to educate the project architects about these considerations. The high-bay storage experts at Spacesaver welcome invitations to share our knowledge and insights with architects, contractors, library professionals, and other project stakeholders.