If you were in the Library in December and January, you may have noticed books and machine parts stacked on some of the tables and in some of the study rooms. That was because the Library was in the process of upgrading its mechanical compact shelving.

What is compact shelving, you ask? Compact shelving is a system in which a library’s shelves sit on rails built into the floor, making them mobile. By doing this, shelves that patrons do not need to access at a given time can be set snug with the adjacent shelves, meaning more total shelves in the library, in turn meaning more items in the collection. To access a shelf that is not open at the time, patrons or staff simply move the adjacent shelves to open walking space, allowing them to enter the stacks and get the items they need. And there is no need to worry about shelves closing in on you, as these systems have multiple safety mechanisms in place to ensure patrons have a safe and (hopefully) enjoyable browsing experience.

Compact shelving has been around for decades and can be either manually powered with hand-turned wheels and cranks, or mechanically powered like the shelving system found in the Library. Ours was installed twenty years ago and had served us well during the years since, but over the last several years, an increasing amount of mechanical and electrical issues indicated that the shelving system was overdue for a replacement.

The shelving upgrade was performed by Midwest Storage Solutions, which specializes in this kind of shelving. During the upgrade process, all of the mechanical and computer systems in each of the shelves were replaced, including the motors, motherboards, sensors, and various safety mechanisms; finally, the control panels on the end of each shelf were replaced with units that will allow the shelving system to be serviced more efficiently if any problems do arise.

While the upgrade process took longer than we anticipated due to parts shortages and a few weather closures, we are happy to report that the new system is in place and working like a charm. So please, come on in and see the new system for yourself!

During the upgrade process, different sections of the collection were inaccessible for Library patrons, and occasionally even for Library staff! As such, we would like to thank all of our patrons for their patience and bearing with us through the periods of inaccessibility during that time. We hope you like the new shelves, and that they serve patrons and staff well for years to come.

Originally posted in the Freeman/Lozier Library’s quarterly newsletter, More Than BooksV. 26 No. 2, Spring 2023.

24/7 Librarian