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Projecting Storage Facility Capacity

December 14, 2022

Even storage facilities fill up eventually. Part of my work this past year has been to figure out the capacity of our storage facility here at Pitt. We have two high bays, one which is at capacity at just under 3 million volumes, and the other with plenty of growth space. As the research collections coordinator, it’s my responsibility to keep tabs on how we’re using this space, because it is very unlikely we will be able to build another facility when this one is full.

photo by charlotte m. johnson

Here, the best practices of shelf space planning go out the window, because we’re not just working in linear feet with a general average of 1” per book. Suddenly we’re working in three dimensions, taking into consideration the varying densities shelves of different sized books can have and keeping in mind there’s no surefire or easy way to figure out what’s coming into storage down the line. Because high density storage is concerned with height and width and depth of books in order to use our shelf space in the most efficient way possible, that’s three aspects of a book that we would have to know in advance.

To make things easy, there are five standard sizes of trays: A, B, C, D, and E, and each book’s size is determined by its width across the front. Our facility also keeps books of similar height together, so we might have a B tray for books 9” high and another B tray for books 10” high. Each shelf only gets one type of tray size/height. My colleagues and I attempted once to figure out whether there was any correlation between the measurement of a book in our catalog and the size tray it went in. There was not. The best I can do with the information we have access to is to figure out the distribution of tray sizes we’ve used in the past and use that to make an educated guess about what we will receive in the future.

I went about collecting data about our collection, such as the average density of each tray size, aided greatly by the reporting capabilities of CaiaSoft, our inventory management software. I am perfecting a formula to figure out how many more books our facility can hold if our collection throughout the other libraries is similar to that of what’s already here. I could further refine this educated guess by learning more about the collections that are not in storage yet. For example, if we no longer have any oversize material in our other libraries, and have no plans to purchase any more (especially if we have an e-preferred policy), then I would not have to take oversize materials into consideration in my formula.

It is an interesting project that I’m excited to be working on, and one that will help me greatly in the future when making decisions about what we accession into our storage facility.

I hope everyone has a happy new year!

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