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Library Case Study: Making Space – Designing Custom Storage for the Newberry Library

The Newberry Library, TAB mobile shelving client

1.5 million books.

5 million manuscript pages.

500,000 historic maps.

One major storage issue.

For the prestigious Newberry, an independent research library located in the heart of downtown Chicago, maintaining and growing its world-renowned collection are critical to sustaining the high level of service that its readers have come to expect. Therefore, the storage and accessibility of this growing collection is a top priority. When the library’s 10-floor storage facility was reaching capacity, they needed to create more storage space without building a new facility.

Hjordis Halvorson, Newberry’s Vice President for Library Services, knew the best way to maximize the existing space would be to convert the stationary shelving to high-density mobile shelving. Her challenge was to find a provider that could sell them high-quality storage equipment, but equally important one that could provide an efficient plan to manage the implementation process with its special rare collections. So Halvorson called the experts at TAB, having been referred by highly respected peer institutions—The Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago (Regenstein Library)—both of which had already completed large mobile projects.

1.0 Laying the Groundwork

Donna Frakes and Tom Wulf from TAB sat down with Halvorson and her team to identify all the specifics of their storage requirements and the different options available to maximize the existing capacity cost effectively. Her team’s experience and feedback were invaluable in creating the right solution.

1.1 A Custom Design

TAB proposed several layouts utilizing High Density Mobile Storage Systems customized specifically for Newberry’s space. Since only the bottom three floors of the library’s 10-floor Book Stack Building were capable of handling the extra floor load, TAB designed solutions for those floors using Mechanical TAB-TRAC systems. Each floor was approximately 8,000 square feet and contained numerous obstacles in the space, like columns and ductwork, which had to be factored into the final design.

The Newberry - TAB-TRAC high-density mobile shelving1.2 Truly Turn-key

The TAB Professional Services Team would not only manufacture and project manage the installation of the high-density mobile systems, they were also fully responsible for ensuring accessibility, physical condition, order, and security of all the collection materials during the project.

This included:

  • Offloading and reloading of all collection materials to minimize handling.
  • Maintaining the precise order of the collections.
  • Moving collections to a new location or consolidating them as needed.

The Newberry required that most of the collection materials needed to remain on site. Given that space for the project was very limited, the staging of the materials during the transition would need to be managed very carefully. This process needed to be co-ordinated very closely with the installation of the shelving systems so that the Newberry Library and its readers didn’t miss a beat. To help make the process more efficient, additional staging areas were created by moving duplicate collections temporarily to TAB’s secure off-site storage facility nearby.

2.0 Delivering Results—30% More Capacity

Newberry’s existing storage capacity for the area in question was about 675,000 linear filing inches. The custom designed solution TAB delivered was about 880,000 linear filing inches—increasing their total capacity by about 30%! The project gave the library a stunning 13.75 miles of new shelving and the equivalent of a full floor of additional storage.

2.1 Anatomy of a Successful Partnership

The Newberry Library team chose to partner with TAB because they were confident that TAB could handle all aspects of designing and implementing the custom solution they were looking for. At the beginning of the project, TAB prepared a comprehensive plan which illustrated in detail how this project would be completed. This plan demonstrated to Newberry that TAB would be able to complete this project efficiently and with minimal disruption to the library’s collection and readers. Because of the thorough planning and close coordination of the construction team and project managers, these goals were accomplished in all respects.

As Halvorson put it, “The project was completed on time; and, most important, the impact on our readers and their research was kept to a minimum. We’re very pleased with the entire team at TAB, which did excellent work and was a great partner.”

If you’d like to learn more about how TAB can design a custom storage solution that will work for your space, contact us.

Download a PDF of the case study here.

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