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Segmentation of a Library Collection: Automated Storage vs. Browsable Shelving (2011-2013)

Automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) technology is typically used in settings such as factories and warehouses to provide secure, high-density storage of parts and products. A small number of libraries have installed an ASRS over the years, allowing for significant reductions in the amount of space required for collection storage.

When designing the Jerry Falwell Library, Liberty University chose to take the aggressive path of depositing more than 70% of the library’s physical materials into the ASRS. This left a small core collection—approximately 60,000 volumes—available for public browsing. The institution’s strategy was to limit the square footage required for collection storage and instead provide a wide variety of spaces for users: high-traffic areas, a traditional reading room, quiet sanctuaries, balconies, group study rooms, and more.

Due to the limited size of the browsing collection, it was essential for the library to stock it with materials that were very likely to be used. As the principal analyst for this project, I was responsible for proposing a model for the browsing collection that would minimize retrieval of materials from the ASRS. The image below shows a comparison of various models that were considered. Actual implementation allowed an item to remain browsable based on recency of acquisition (<=24 months) or circulation history (2+ circulations in the past 2 years, or 10+ circulations in the past 6 years).

Browsable collection models