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BRYAN, Texas (AP) — When books are cleared off of the shelves in university library stacks across Texas by the thousands, they have to go somewhere or else they could be ground to a pulp and recycled.
That "somewhere" is a sand-colored concrete building on Texas A&M's Riverside campus called the Joint Library Facility, a cost- and space-saving collaboration between the Texas A&M University and University of Texas libraries, where almost 300,000 print texts call home.
Joint Library Facilities Director Wyoma vanDuinkerken said the year-old, $6.3 million, 18,000-square-foot facility has become the go-to for print material storage for more than 27 universities across the state as libraries look to free up space on growing campuses to make more room for students.
"What's great about this facility is the cost savings," vanDuinkerken told The Eagle of Bryan-College Station (http://bit.ly/1vz9SQh). "It gives the space that the students need in the libraries. The students are wanting to use more electronics, there is still a need for print, but at the same time it's not being used as heavily, so now they're sending books to a place like this where we can keep it for future researchers and still make the space we need in the library stacks."
The facility as it stands can store up to one million volumes, but it has the potential to expand by an additional two million.
VanDuinkerken and other library faculty went around the country to look at other facilities to build the ideal storage system.
"There are other facilities like this that exist, so we were able to go visit other facilities to see what they did well, what they didn't do well and distill it down to what we think is the best system here," Texas A&M Libraries Marketing Manager Patrick Zinn said.
VanDuinkerken said that storing a single volume in a traditional library stack costs an estimated $4.26 per year by taking in account staffing, lighting, heating and cooling costs. Because the storage facility is intended to store books and not entertain students, it brings the cost down to 86 cents per book.
Thousands of volumes of books are not just dropped off at the facility's doorsteps and placed onto shelves. VanDuinkerken and her team of three faculty and five student workers have built an intricate system around barcodes and computers that allows them to store and pull the books off shelves with efficiency.
"The day of the call number is over for storage facilities," vanDuinkerken said.
Once a week, the facility receives a shipment of at least 10 wood pallets containing an estimated 6,000 volumes of books packed into cardboard boxes. The books are then taken out of the boxes, sized, stamped with a barcode on the front cover, scanned, placed in an appropriately sized acid-free cardboard tray and onto a cart.
Once a cardboard tray is filled with books of the same size, a cart filled with more trays is taken into the warehouse facility protected by an automatic fireproof door. A barcode on one of the 20-foot-high shelves is scanned by a forklift operator, and the book is tucked away for storage.
Each book in storage is one of a kind, as there is no duplication in the facility. Partnering universities can claim the same volume as a common resource, which helps free additional space in library stacks. "If you're looking for a book, I cannot only tell you what shelf it's on, but what tray it's on and I can tell you where this tray is on the shelf," vanDuinkerken said.
If a student at A&M, Texas or their system schools wishes to retrieve a whole book or just a chapter in the facility's storage, it can be recalled through the facility's database.
A student can access the online catalogue, search for the title of a book, click the "get it for me" button, fill out a book request that goes into an interlibrary loan software, where a staff member will pull the book, scan it and send it to the school of the student who requested it.
The facility serves as a storage unit for rarely used books, but gained a new role as savior of valuable print texts with the rescue of a collection of 160,000 medical volumes from University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, which vanDuinkerken said are valued in excess of $1 million.
"They were told to close their medical library stacks and only keep 2,000 volumes. We moved heaven and earth to save this collection. It is the most pristine medical science collection in the state of Texas," she said.
"The medical community was extremely pleased with us and this library in particular called us their superheroes," vanDuinkerken said. "The entire collection would have been pulped. I don't think people realized there would be these kinds of opportunities when this facility was built but since it arose so quickly it is clear to us that one of the other values of having this facility is to just save collections."
Information from: The Eagle, http://www.theeagle.com
Editor's note: This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Eagle of Bryan-College Station.
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