Newcastle University Library

  • Newcastle University Library

Newcastle University Library

New book storage solution frees up vital study space for Newcastle University students

Newcastle University is one of the country’s top educational institutions offering around 200 undergraduate degrees, and 300 postgraduate programmes and research degrees. Its Libraries include The Robinson Library, which is the main campus library, The Walton Medical and Dental Library, and the Law Library.

In 2009, after consultation with its students, The Robinson Library was tasked with increasing its student study space by 20 per cent to meet the changing needs at the University. This required the relocation of 8,000 linear metres of books and journals from the Library to an offsite store.

With its existing warehouse filled to capacity, the Library’s only practical long-term option was to establish a new off-site Library Research Reserve with some 24,000 linear metres of shelving for its 200,000+ books and journals.

New premises were found in nearby Gateshead and, to get the project underway, were temporarily fitted with 2m high static shelving taken from the old warehouse. The Library considered various options to achieve its required capacity, such as installing a mezzanine floor, but even then static shelving could not provide enough storage. A block of high-rise mobile shelving was initially installed in 2010, which quickly proved its worth by simultaneously increasing capacity and optimising floor space, while maintaining 100% accessibility.

Following the trial, a competitive tender to design, supply and install a complete shelving solution was issued. In particular, the Library specified the need to exploit the headroom of the warehouse to maximise the storage capacity of the building.

An 11-level high-rise Compactus® mobile shelving system from Bruynzeel was selected. “What made the Compactus solution particularly attractive was its height combined with its stability,” explained stores manager, Christine Stevens.

The new mobile shelving was configured as seven blocks with the original trial block balancing the layout, so that four banks face four across the wide central gangway. The shelving was all 4m high, fitted with eleven 300mm deep shelves per bay, plus a dust cover shelf at the top.

To overcome any potential issues relating to the stability of the slender, 4m high mobile shelving, both overhead and undercarriage anti-tilt devices were employed. This approach, together with twin positive-drive systems, ensured that the shelving moved smoothly, forwards and back, with no vertical sway. In addition to the shelving for books and journals, Bruynzeel also installed mobile carriages fitted with 4m high mesh Picture Racking for the framed paintings belonging to the University.

To minimise disruption to the day-to-day operation of the Library, Bruynzeel phased its installation with the Library’s move management schedule. The new shelving was installed on a rolling programme to allow the Library to empty and dismantle the static shelving - to create the space - just ahead of the build programme of the mobile systems. Running in parallel was the re-fit of the Robinson Library that increased study space to 300 workstations with new desks, furniture and computer systems.

With the project successfully completed, the Library Research Reserve facility now offers students a 24-hour delivery of a requested book or journal, as well as digital scans of articles. On average the Library processes between 100 and 150 requests a week. The benefit to students of providing 90 additional study spaces is significant, as they become increasingly dependent on the Library for suitable study areas.

By using the opportunity of the move to new premises to check stock, catalogue and re-organise systems, Library staff are now working even more productively. “Despite the potential disruption we were able to keep up with our normal delivery service levels throughout the duration of the project,” said Christine Stevens. “Stock is now really easy to retrieve, not only because it is better organised but also because the mobile shelves are more compact and even more accessible. This just wasn’t possible with static shelving.” she explained.  “We now have a clean, efficient storage facility that will help preserve our stock as well as improving the service we can offer to students.”