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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