Step into a library today, and you’ll see books and periodicals — but also patrons learning to knit, searching for a job on a computer or researching genealogy. Entrepreneurs working in the Maker’s Lab. Parents and preschoolers at story hour, teens learning to code or playing video games. Flexible library storage is key to future-proofing an institution that needs to evolve with the times.
“Libraries are a microcosm of the larger society,” states the American Library Association (ALA) in its 2019 report. Libraries play an “important and unique role” in their communities, providing “education and lifelong learning,” and “a lifeline for some of our nation’s most vulnerable communities.” Yet they are doing so, often, in aging buildings under threat of budget cuts. The White House’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal, for instance, has called for the elimination of the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
Librarians are civic-minded and want to persist in serving the many different populations that rely on them. But this requires flexibility. With patron needs always evolving, the library needs to invest in storage that can grow and change. Fortunately, there are many adaptable storage options that meet the need for customized solutions that can evolve too.
Americans go to public libraries (1.35 billion visits) more often than they go to the movies (1.24 billion admissions).
The Changing Face of Libraries
Librarians have a lot to keep up with. For instance, almost as soon as they find offsite storage for periodicals and books that are not as in demand with the rise of e-books, the tide changes. At the end of 2018, e-reader sales were dropping and book manufacturers were struggling to keep up with demand for new print books.
At the same time, the librarian needs to keep up with technological offerings. Where are the Smartboards? Do they have a maker space where library patrons can create physical or digital products? How are they going to accommodate the many people coming in to fill out the 2020 online census?
Plus, people continue to look to the library as a social center. Libraries need meeting rooms and lounge spaces where teens can experience an escape room, a book group meeting can be held or patrons can learn a new lifelong skill.
Patterson Pope works with Spacesaver, for years the industry’s leader in high-density storage solutions, to design and outfit library spaces with modern shelving and storage items. In planning to future-proof a library, consider these many adaptable storage solutions that go beyond shelving to free up space.
Flexible Library Storage Solutions
Even with all of the changes in library use these days, circulation remains a top priority. Keep the need to showcase and display books at the forefront of a design plan with outward-facing shelves, custom end panels, or browsing bins encouraging patrons to linger and engage with materials.
The Harris County Library in Georgia achieved flexibility by integrating fixed shelving with high-pressure laminate end panels from Wilson Art alongside 14 repositionable library carts. The carts, in six-foot and nine-foot lengths, are affixed with casters to provide moveable shelving sections. “Using shelving that can be temporarily moved around was of course very important for usage design today and in the future,” said Keith Schuermann, Troup-Harris County Library System Regional Director.
“I’m really excited about how we’re now able to do things that we couldn’t do before.”
High-density mobile storage is another great way to consolidate shelving to regain space. Consider the work Patterson Pope has done with the to renovate its music library. With more than 35 mechanical assist high-density carriages, the library could store its more than 11,500 sets of music with additional capacity available for future growth, in a large, repurposed hallway/walkway.
is also a good way to expand library storage facilities in the same space parameters. The College of Charleston (CoC) needed to accommodate a gift of the South Carolina Historical Society’s collection of research papers and documents, without increasing its footprint. with high-density mobile storage systems, the library enlarged manuscript storage and gained an additional 200 seats for students too. “We decided on mobile shelving to help us maximize capacity and open up space, and it’s been hugely successful on both fronts,” said Claire Fund, the library’s Director of Administrative Services.
Beyond Stack Shelving
The right library shelving also helps meet preservation goals. Perforated shelving units, sometimes installed in conjunction with perforated end panels, can help maintain ideal conditions to preserve rare books and other historical documents. Yet conservation storage isn’t specific to books alone either.
Patrons want room to breathe too. Open up space with modular walls, room dividers, and privacy screens. , for instance, integrate with permanent construction, existing furniture and architectural elements, while reducing noise, promoting sustainability and making the best use of existing light.