Thursday, October 10, 2013

Medium-Density Storage

Last week, at the invitation of Diane Graves, University Librarian at Trinity University in San Antonio, I spent two days in Texas to talk about shared print books and deselection. Day one consisted of discussions with some Humanities faculty at Trinity, followed by a day at the Texas Council of Academic Libraries meeting in Austin. People say that everything is bigger in Texas, and the jumbotron screen at the conference center certainly proved that point. Between the fine Mexican food and the buzz of passing by Scherz, Texas (Steve Earle's hometown) with a Doug Sahm song running through my head, it was a pretty fine trip.

TAMU/UTS Joint Library Facility
As luck would have it, I even learned a few things, from an interesting presentation on the Texas A&M / University of Texas System Joint Library Facility. The JLF opened in May 2013, and has recently begun to ingest books and journals--just under 70,000 to date, in a facility designed to hold one million volumes. Presenters Pixey Anne Mosley (Associate Dean for Administrative & Faculty Services at Texas A&M Libraries) and Wyoma van Duinkerken (Director of the JLF) described the evolution of the facility, highlighting a few concepts that were new, at least to me:
  • A medium-density facility: Shelving is 19 feet high, rather than the 30 feet that characterizes high-density facilities. This eliminates the need for additional sprinklers and helps control costs. I didn't think Texas did 'medium' anything, but there you have it.
  • Climate controls that mimic open stacks: Rather than 59 degrees and humidity-controlled, the JLF temperature is kept at 68% and there are no humidity controls. The idea is that these conditions are as good as most library stacks, and keep operating costs down. Both universities have other storage facilities that are climate-controlled.
  • Resource-in-Common (RIC): Via this concept, materials sent to the JLF become shared state property. Claiming RIC status for a title requires withdrawing one local shelf copy and updating the record with JLF location and OCLC symbol (JLF has its own symbol), and barcode information.
  • Clear and sensible policies: No duplicates. No government documents. Want good copy but not necessary to identify "best" copy. Items cannot be withdrawn or permanently relocated (e.g., back to campus). This collection is meant to be counted on.
The TAMU/UTS approach strikes a different balance than I've seen in other places. The emphasis is on reasonably good conditions for housing a single copy of books to be shared--at a reasonable cost. It fills a niche somewhere between what I have previously described as 'archive copies' and 'service copies.' It uses a single copy to do a bit of both, at a cost of $.40 per volume per year -- less than half of the $.86 per volume per year that Courant & Nielsen calculated for high-density storage. The JLF is not fully optimized for either preservation or delivery, but makes a reasonable effort at both. For print materials that may not be much in demand, this may be a very cost-effective solution at this scale.

Oh, and as for that jumbotron at the AT &T Conference Center, check it out.

You really don't want a typo on your slide at this scale!

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