July 8th, 2008
Watch any show on HGTV and you will probably hear someone espouse the virtues of proper storage and the need for adequate closet space. The same conversation has been happening for a while at the West Virginia University Libraries.
The Libraries now have 12,000 more square feet of space to house lesser-used books, journals, and other materials thanks to the newly opened addition to the Libraries’ Depository in the WVU Research Park.
“This off-site storage is designed to preserve our collections but still make them available to WVU students and faculty through the MountainLynx catalog,” Libraries Dean Frances O’Brien said. “I think it’s a good solution to the increasing demand for more study and learning space in the campus libraries.”
Randy Jenkins, Depository Manager, oversees the migration of materials from the Downtown Campus, Evansdale, and Health Sciences libraries to the new Depository addition.
The addition comes eight years after the Libraries began moving materials into the original Depository, which is now filled to capacity. One-fifth larger than the original, the new space will provide storage for an estimated 750,000 books, along with bound journals, microfilm, audio-visual materials, archival collections, and WVU Press book inventory.
Guidelines call for books and other materials that have not been used in more than 10 years to be sent to the Depository.
Keeping up with that rule requires yearly maintenance. Randy Jenkins, Depository Manager, said about 7,000 books were recently pulled from the shelves at the Downtown Campus Library and will soon be relocated at the addition. Library staff are also continuing to remove old journals for transfer.
Similar work is being done at the Evansdale Library. The goal is to have all journals and other materials prior to 1995 housed at the Depository.
Another important job for the facility is conservation. The Depository provides optimal temperature and humidity for fragile archival items from the West Virginia and Regional History Collection and Special Collections.
“In the new Depository building, we can safely preserve more non-book materials, including fragile audio and video recordings,” O’Brien said.
Far from being a browsing library, the place is more reminiscent of the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Staff sort the books by size, store them in barcoded acid-free trays, and use a battery-powered lift to place them on 30-foot-high shelves.
But, unlike the Ark and artifacts packed away in that fictitious warehouse, materials are easily accessible by simply visiting the Libraries’ Web site and making an online request.
Journal articles account for most requests and are fulfilled electronically. After receiving a request, staff scan the articles into PDF format and email them. Books are delivered to the user’s desired campus library.
“It’s about storage and retrieval,” Jenkins said. “It doesn’t do any good to store something if you can’t retrieve it and make it available to our users.”
O’Brien agreed, citing the quick turnaround on requests.
“We've developed excellent inventory, requesting, and delivery systems that have been in use since 2000,” O’Brien said. “It's as much about service and successful preservation as it is mitigating space issues.”