SSI Schaefer storage facility holds 150 years of history

SPONSORED: High-tech book storage facility at Cambridge University

Cambridge University Library, as a Legal Deposit Library since 1710, has been entitled to claim a copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland for more than 300 years. Today, the library collections encompass around 9,000,000 books, manuscripts and other physical items. So, what happens when the university library runs out of space to store them all?

Having recently designed and installed a similar storage solution, SSI Schaefer provided in-depth technical knowledge and design expertise to ensure the required state-of-the-art facility would not only house their important collection in a secure and controlled environment but also provide sufficient storage as it expands over the coming years.

The dedicated facility at Ely is primarily for low usage books and journals which need to be stored safely and securely off site, freeing up vital space in the main university libraries. All items stored at Ely are post-1850 with the largest book currently housed at the facility being 12 inches deep, believed to be a directory from around 1899. 

Items at the facility are available to any student, researcher and alumni of the university as well as members of the Cambridge University Library and its readers, including members of the public. They can be requested through the library catalogue (iDiscover) and delivered within 24 hours to the library reading rooms for consultation.  

Maximising storage density

Such is the in-depth detail of design that every aspect has been considered, even down to the picking angles required for treaching/lifting of boxes and books to ensure they are at the optimum ergonomic level for increased work safety

The SSI Schaefer storage solution involved the construction of 24 aisles of high bay narrow aisle shelving with each aisle being 38m long with shelving 11m high, providing an overall storage area at the facility of 87,000m2 which offers superb storage density.

Over 68,000 dividing shelves were fitted with storage trays located on the shelves 2 or 3 trays deep, providing over 100,000 locations. In addition, SSI Schaefer supplied 25 high-density drawer cabinets providing 600 drawers to store large format maps and documents, located within the shelving at ground level. 

The post-1850 era of books, journals, maps, and newspapers are best suited to the strict environmental controls within the building’s infrastructure, which ensures they are kept in perfect condition. This means a temperature-controlled environment between 13 and 20 degrees centigrade with humidity levels between 50% and 55%, made possible thanks to the building’s design which delivers superb insulation and air tightness performance. This also includes the highest levels of fire protection with a state-of-the-art integrated sprinkler system installed in collaboration with SSI Schaefer.

Such is the in-depth detail of design that every aspect has been considered, even down to the picking angles required for treaching/lifting of boxes and books to ensure they are at the optimum ergonomic level for increased work safety. SSI Schaefer also installed the shelf labelling and signage using a barcode system, enabling for full traceability of each item stored at the facility.

Since taking on the building in May 2018, the university has already stocked the specially-designed cardboard trays with 416,000kg of books, around half of the planned number to be in place by August 2019. This will fill around 25% of the expansive storage facility, so they are well placed to grow the occupancy, expected to be fully complete within the next 12 years. 

Ady Powell, facilities & library storage facility manager, commented, “Our new storage facility from SSI Schaefer delivers on all fronts: huge storage potential, perfect environmental conditions for our rare and unique books, all stored in streamlined, ergonomic shelving which has been designed with the team in mind. Data is available at the touch of a button with a comprehensive warehouse control system to ensure we can pinpoint the exact location of any item, at any time. We’re proud of our facility and the role it plays in ensuring the continued safe-keeping of our historic collection.”