As the needs of students are changing, academic libraries’ archival storage changes as well —and the library system at the University of California-Santa Barbara is no exception. A major library renovation project at the UCSB campus has been in the works for several years, and has culminated with 150,000 square feet of new and renovated space, including a new state-of-the-art Special Research Collections facility, Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory, 24-Hour Learning Commons with reservable group study rooms, and a dramatic Paseo entrance and thoroughfare connecting the East and West sides of the campus.
Within the changing face of libraries, there’s also a shift in what the libraries archival storage system are storing. In the case of UCSB’s Special Research Collections, it wasn’t just books that needed to be thought about—the collections encompass a variety of archives and manuscripts, historical sound recordings, and more. And, when the Collections learned that a new building was finally becoming a reality, there were three equally important goals in mind. “The first was consolidating the collections from all of their various locations around campus,” says David Seubert, Curator of UCSB’s Performing Arts collections. “Second, we wanted to finally house particular materials on shelving and in storage that made sense.”
This is common for libraries and archival storage—in the facility where the collections where previously housed, there was nothing but book shelving, and Seubert and the other curators were constantly needing to improvise when it came to storing larger, non-book artifacts. The third priority was to maximize the capacity of the new storage footprint to make sure that the facility would accommodate future growth. “The way to do all of these was through the use of high-density storage,” Seubert says.
UCSB has had a relationship with McMurray Stern, and Senior Design Consultant Randy Hacker for about 15 years, and when the Library was ready to talk about a new building—and storage for that building—he was more than ready to help. “One of the first times I went to UCSB Library, David and I literally walked through his collection, looked at every single piece, and I asked, “How do you want to store this?” Hacker says. “This was something we really wanted to get right—and we had multiple meetings and discussions, several drawings and revised drawings—all to make sure that the storage solution we were planning was an exact mirror of their specifications.”
“I worked with Randy from the beginning of this project to the very end,” Seubert says, “and what was most valuable is the fact that I could articulate what I wanted to him—and I’m not an expert in shelving or storage by any means—and he could take that and say, ‘Let’s do this.’ Not only did we go through the entire collection together, but we also worked together to project the growth of the collection. Now, we have a situation where we’re going to be set for at least another 20 years—which is really remarkable with the limited footprint of the storage space.”
“Considering the size of the project,” Seubert continues, “the best part is that we got it all right. Everything played out according to plan, and all the shelving types are appropriate for what we’re housing.” They knew that for sure when the moving of the collections were wrapped up recently and there were no hiccups between the collection relocation service hired by UCSB and the new storage space.
The new space includes three floors of high-density mobile, with each system tailored to fit the specific requirements of the individual Special Research Collections areas. From high-density art racks to hold the Collection’s framed art, to custom drawers and cabinets to house flat files, wax cylinder recordings, and optimized metal shelving to maximize the number of boxes and books able to fit on each shelf, everything that required archival storage has a precise place.
“I worked with Randy from the beginning of this project to the very end,” Seubert says, “and what was most valuable is the fact that I could articulate what I wanted to him—and I’m not an expert in shelving or storage by any means—and he could take that and say, ‘Let’s do this.’ Not only did we go through the entire collection together, but we also worked together to project the growth of the collection. Now, we have a situation where we’re going to be set for at least another 20 years—which is really remarkable with the limited footprint of the storage space.” -David Seubert, Curator of UCSB’s Performing Arts collections
Seubert and the other curators at UC Santa Barbara Library have just completed the process of moving the majority of their collections to the new space, with a Grand Opening planned for early January 2016. The space once occupied by the Special Research Collections on the third floor of the main Library will become the new home for the University’s Map & Imagery Laboratory as well as the Music collection—and later on, UCSB is planning on opening a new café in the space. “Not only did we save space for the Collections themselves, but what the school is able to do with the available physical space is pretty remarkable,” says Hacker.
In addition, Seubert mentions that having the majority of the collections under one roof has cut down on the amount of remote storage. “This storage gets more of our materials on-site and on campus, so we have a faster turnaround with our researchers,” he says.
“In working with architects and campus planner, I think we realized how important it was to have McMurray Stern’s expertise. The architects didn’t know archival storage, and our planners weren’t familiar—so it was great to have Randy there and have someone know the answers,” Seubert says. He came to the same realization when the UCSB team was tuning the storage to National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) standards.
“The space needed to be climate-controlled, and the floors had to be concrete with epoxy,” Seubert says. “When it came to the high-density storage, we knew that the concrete would need to be poured around the rails, and that there would be a lot of coordination. That’s where it really helped to work with McMurray Stern—they had so much experience with coordinating with the concrete people, the different tradespeople—they did a lot of that heavy lifting for us.”
In taking donors through the new facility over the past month, Seubert notes how impressed people are with the storage. “If there’s such a thing as shelving being ‘grand’, I think this is exactly that,” he says. “People are kind of floored when they see the storage, and what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
It’s an accomplishment that both Seubert and Hacker are proud of. “In our industry, we don’t always know about things like high-density storage, or mobile art racks, or the different types of shelving. We just know we have a challenge, and we want to solve it. To be able to tell someone what you need and have them know an archival storage solution is essential. It helps us get back to doing what we love—and what we do best.”