The Surprising Statistics of U.S. Collecting Institutions

The Surprising Statistics of U.S. Collecting Institutions

No one can doubt the value of museums and libraries. These institutions are the repositories of our collective cultural memories, preserving history via written word and artifact, helping us find our way forward by knowing where we came from. And our U.S. collecting institutions – libraries, museums, archives, historical societies, and scientific collections – have created truly remarkable assemblages, according to the recently released results of the Heritage Health Information Survey:

  • The U.S. is home to more than 31,000 collecting institutions.
  • More than 13 billion items, from artworks to arrowheads, are preserved in these institutions.
  • Of those 13 billion items, many are in the form of individual paper documents, enough to fill 347 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Given these astonishing numbers, it’s no surprise that proper storage is vital for these collecting institutions. Museums and archives in particular put much of their effort into the conservation of their unique collections. They need storage that not only accommodates all the unusual sizes and shapes of artifacts, but preserves objects from further deterioration. Humidity and chemically-incompatible surfaces are damaging to any ancient artifact, and those Olympic pools of paper documents are especially prone to insect damage as well.

Luckily, storage providers have already anticipated the needs of collecting institutions, designing an array of space-saving, customizable, and protective systems. Adjustable shelving and partitioned drawers and bins fit artifacts both large and small. Flat files are well-suited to paper documents and unframed photos and paintings, while vertical racks hold framed artworks. These museum-friendly storage systems have non-reactive finishes and are sturdy enough for the heavy weight of stone sculptures or military ordinance.

Museums are chronically challenged to find enough exhibit space for their treasures, but a well-designed storage system can transform storage space into additional exhibit space. A high-density mobile storage system can save up to 50% of floor space, and a vertical storage carousel or a multi-level shelving system saves up to 80% of floor space (this video shows how one museum expanded its storage upward instead of outward).

Keeping track of all those objects can be a challenge, too. A written tracking system is time-consuming and often inaccurate. A bar code system is better, but it becomes ineffective if bar codes are obscured or damaged. An RFID system, with inconspicuous RFID tags that communicate with an RFID inventory reader, allows museum managers to track an object as it moves from storage to conservation room to exhibit room.

The work of U.S. collecting institutions is too important to trust to outmoded storage methods. With the help of an experienced storage consultant, conservators can look after their collections properly, now and in the future, as their collections grow far beyond the current numbers.

 

Photo © caftor / AdobeStock

Where’s My Stuff? The Hoteling Conundrum

Where’s My Stuff? The Hoteling Conundrum

Like it or not, office hoteling is a reality for many workers today. For those whose work is self-contained, and who enjoy choosing where to do their work on any given day, the flexibility of hoteling is highly desirable. For those whose work requires access to physical elements (books, files, tools, electronic gadgetry, etc.), hoteling poses a productivity problem: Where do they keep all that stuff during off-hours if they don’t have an assigned desk where they can store it?

This has been a vexatious problem for facilities managers, office managers, and practice managers whose enterprises have embraced the concept of office hoteling. Hoteling has the undeniable advantage of reducing real estate costs through reduced office space. If only 50% of your employees are in the office most days, why are you paying for unused space?

But many types of businesses require quite a lot of “stuff” on the desk to get the job done. Maybe it’s a small-scale scanner for receipts, or a stack of documents that aren’t available online, or research materials for an ongoing project. Add to this the quantity of stuff many of us carry around through the day: workout clothes, commuting shoes, a heavy winter coat, the dry cleaning we picked up on the way to work. Without a fixed work area, all these personal and work-related items end up spread over the open workspace – not at all practical or aesthetically pleasing.

Managers are realizing that hoteling requires a type of storage solution they may not have needed in the past. Just as a hotel room contains a closet, a hoteling office needs lockers for all those personal things that shouldn’t be cluttering up the workspace.

But these aren’t the clunky hall lockers of our high school days. Today’s office lockers can be outfitted with smart digital locks linked to mobile phones for easy access. They can be sized to fit the needs of the workforce – full length or compact – and the exteriors can be customized to complement the office aesthetic. They can be an asset to the interior design rather than just an annoying necessity.

A conversation with a designer or storage consultant can point you in the direction of a solution that fits your office hoteling needs. Hoteling doesn’t have to make employees’ stuff a productivity burden, as long as a place is provided for all that stuff.

 

Photo © gamble19 / AdobeStock

More Than Just Books: The Librarian’s Challenge

More Than Just Books: The Librarian’s Challenge

In honor of World Book Day, Twitter hosted a curated collection of beautiful photo images of libraries around the world. These architectural gems are inspirational examples of design, paying homage to the written word even in the midst of the Digital Age. If you look closely at the photographs, however, it becomes apparent that the shelves are very crowded. Book publishers are printing more books than ever, and librarians are hard-pressed to house their collections.

Adding to the challenge is the changing nature of the library itself. No longer are libraries just a place to check out books or do research. More and more, they are centers for community activities, providing space for everything from internet cafes to classrooms to yoga studios. Flexible space utilization is a must, and librarians are constantly juggling the multiple demands of book space and activity space, without the option of increasing the building’s footprint.

However, storage technology is coming to the rescue, reports Audrey Barbakoff in Library Journal. Creative products condense collections in a number of ways:

  1. High-density shelving systems increase storage space while reducing the storage footprint, and the finishes can be customized to suit a library’s design aesthetic.
  2. Powered by AS/RS, “book bots” operate in floor-to-ceiling shelving spaces with narrow aisles too small for humans. They are entertaining for library patrons to watch, and have the added benefit of eliminating safety concerns about ladders and overhead lifting.
  3. Shared storage spreads the cost of storage space and inventory management among several libraries, as well as letting them share the contents of their collections and reduce excess duplicates.

Adaptive furnishings such as Swiftspace workstations can also boost libraries’ flexible space utilization, shifting from study carrel to collaborative workstation to small conference area. These workstations let libraries reconfigure their space for a variety of needs, and they fold up for compact storage.

The mission of librarians is “to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities,” according to library expert David Lankes. With the support of the right furnishing and storage systems, librarians can turn their attention to their primary mission.

 

Photo © deberrar / Adobe Stock

The Titanium Librarian

The Titanium Librarian

The classic idea of a librarian – a pedantic person who is always shushing people – is giving way to a high-tech version that isn’t perturbed by chatty patrons. By combining high density storage systems with robotic storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), large libraries are expanding their collections without slowing down the retrieval and re-shelving of the millions of publications in their charge. Now libraries can take their storage to architectural extremes without losing document retrieval efficiency. See the remarkable photos here.

And when you have 157 miles of shelving condensed into an ancient building like the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, fetching one particular book could exhaust a human librarian. As reported by Attila Nagy in Gizmodo, efficient robots free up librarians’ time to do what they do best: curating publications and assisting readers in identifying the ideal resource for their needs.

Despite this move toward automation, nothing can replace a librarian’s ability to categorize and connect disparate topics and arcane sources. No one can better encourage a young reader by offering exactly the right book. Librarians are uniquely situated to collect and preserve countless publications and make sure they are stored safely, ideally in a modern high density storage system.

And even though they may dispatch a robot to retrieve your favorite book, librarians will still discourage loud talking.

 

Photo © Svyatoslav Lypynskyy/Fotolia.com

Thank You, IRS! The Equipment Purchase Deduction

Thank You, IRS! The Equipment Purchase Deduction

As the end of the year approaches, the IRS has a little holiday gift for businesses looking for last-minute ways to boost their tax deductions. It’s the Section 179 tax rule, which permits the deduction of the full purchase price of business equipment, up to $25,000. As explained by the tax watchers at Section179.org, this deduction can be a significant business stimulus.

New equipment put into service this year by December 31st can be deducted from your business’s gross income under Section 179. It’s that simple. And everything we provide – high density storage systems, RFID systems, modular furnishings, for example – qualifies for the deduction.

More good news: When you add in depreciation, the total tax reduction is even greater. This calculator from Crest Capital shows the savings. Review your company’s 2015 P&L, check with your tax professional, then give us a call.

Photo © nito – Fotolia

The $630,000 Mis-file

The $630,000 Mis-file

The Boston Public Library is one of the nation’s oldest, largest, and most respected public institutions, but when a couple of valuable art works went missing, the library’s esteemed position – and the reputations of many librarians – went under the microscope of an FBI investigation.

Like other libraries and museums, Boston Library has a mandate to acquire and archive historical documents, artifacts, and art for the benefit of scholars and the public alike. According to former Boston Library president Amy Ryan, her predecessors had maintained no central inventory, and acquisitions were made without any documentation. When a 15th century Albrecht Durer print and a 16th century Rembrandt print, valued at $600,000 and $30,000 respectively, went missing after being shown to a high school group, there was no way to know what had happened to them. As reported by the Boston Globe, investigators were called in, the department head was suspended, and the library’s president tendered her resignation.

Personnel were eventually cleared of any charges when the rare prints were discovered months later on a high shelf just a few feet from their correct filing positions. In this case, an innocent filing mistake was the culprit, but there are other missing items that are still under investigation. It’s a cautionary tale for institutions and facilities that may be dealing with inadequate, outdated filing and inventory systems.

 

Photo © Anton Gvozdikov Fotolia