Smart storage of the future

Smart storage gives universities the edge when building or refurbishing their estate, says Richard Tong, Bruynzeel Storage Systems

Q. Who are Bruynzeel Storage Systems and what do they do?

A. Bruynzeel are a Dutch manufacturing company who design and install specialist storage systems. You may have seen one of our roller racking systems on the BBC’s genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are? When the celebrity visits an archive to research their family history, there is often a series of mobile shelving units visible in the background. They can be opened up using handles on the ends of the aisles. Bruynzeel was largely responsible for introducing roller racking systems like these into the UK from the 1960s onward. Since then we’ve recognised that universities – and especially university libraries – have become a very important sector for the company in the UK. 

Q. What kind of work does Bruynzeel do in universities?

A. Traditionally Bruynzeel has been best known for providing back office solutions – roller racking for storing a large number of books and archive materials. Picture Tom Hanks in the Vatican Archive in the sequel to the Da Vinci Code and you get the idea. More recently, successes at universities such as Canterbury Christ Church University, Nottingham, Coventry and Greenwich have helped to generate an increased interest in our front-of-house solutions, particularly for libraries and learning resource centres. Popular products include our static Sysco shelving and high-density roller racking systems for ‘live’ student access. By utilising our electronic roller racking, these systems are faster, safer and easier to use for students and staff. 

Q. Apart from libraries, are there other parts of the university estate that could benefit from smart storage?

A. We have recently helped create archive storage facilities for the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield and the British Cartoon Archive at the University of Kent. Specialist collections in universities are always growing. If the estate is committed to a new build, clients don’t want to be hamstrung by static shelving, so many will chose roller racking to allow for expansion and future proofing. There’s a growing interest in our solutions for modern records storage, where paper records are still required and there is a specific demand to optimise space. We even provide solutions for object storage. We’re currently on site at the Lapworth Museum of Geology at the University of Birmingham. The system we’re installing is part of the University’s HLF-funded development to open up the museum archive, transforming it into a modern, accessible space for education and research.

My unbiased tip to university librarians is to be actively involved rather than leaving the development to a facilities manager or contract builder  

Q. In your opinion, how have university attitudes changed to new building and refurbishment in recent years?

A. When I was at university, government grants were still available. I went to Liverpool. When I arrived at uni, we accepted it pretty much how it was. I’ve been along to a number of universities with my daughter recently. Nowadays, students are much more savvy, because it’s their own money they are spending. They want to go somewhere that has outstanding facilities. Universities have to work much harder to be competitive and increase student numbers. They are at pains to make the estate as attractive as possible for prospective students, including the library and study areas. Our roller racking can actually help. For example, Nottingham Trent moved its collection from static into mobile and created 33 additional places for students to study in its library. That translates directly into an increase in capacity – and potential income.  

Q. What is the future for Bruynzeel’s work with universities?

A. Libraries will continue to be our core business. As journals move over to electronic storage, universities are putting reference books on roller racking instead, in order to conserve space. Libraries will always need storage. Our LED lighting is becoming increasingly popular. It gives a far better level of illumination and saves money. My unbiased tip to university librarians is to be actively involved rather than leaving the development to a facilities manager or contract builder. Engage the offer of help and advice from a shelving specialist as soon as possible. Don’t leave these things to the last minute.

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