The Library Shelving Facility was conceived as a cost-effective response to a persistent space crisis on-campus, and during the life of the facility it has provided an excellent means of both coping with continued growth in physical collections and maintaining browsable stacks on campus. In 2012 the Library’s attention was re-focused on two important off-campus space considerations. The first of these was the realization that the shelving capacity of the LSF is itself a finite resource that will eventually be exhausted. Initially designed to ingest approximately 250K items annually, over its operational life the LSF has, on average, exceeded that bench-mark by 51% per year. Contributing to the unanticipated acceleration of the LSF fill-rate have been the many consolidations (SSL with KSL), renovations (CCL/Bass, Haas, and the Medical Library) and closings (EPH, FES, Engineering, and Mudd) that occurred within the YUL between 2010-2014. Transfers from Mudd Library to the LSF, which began in FY 10 as a necessary prelude to the closure of that library, epitomized this trend and greatly exacerbated the off-campus space crunch. In just a 20 month period, for example, 1.2 million were transferred to off-campus shelving from Mudd alone, roughly four times the total amount of material that would have been transferred to off-campus shelving under normal circumstances during the same period. Even with the reduction in transfers to off-campus shelving since FY 14, projections indicate that the space currently available to the Library at LSF will be completely filled by the conclusion of FY 16.
In addition to an increased consciousness of the inherent limitations in off-campus shelving capacity, there was also a growing awareness of the very real, if not obvious, on-going costs associated with shelving/storing materials off-campus. These costs involve not only expenditures for heating, cooling, base staffing, and circulation functions at the LSF, but also take into account past and future construction expenses. Several methods for calculating the expense of storing materials off-campus have been suggested since the late 1980s, but the most recent estimates—including those made by researchers at the University of Michigan in 2010—indicate that the ongoing cost to store materials remotely may be as great as 86 cents per item per year.1 With an off-campus collection that now numbers approximately 7MM items, this storage cost represents a significant ongoing investment by the library which requires careful management and oversight.
Given the limited shelving capacity at the LSF and the ongoing costs of maintaining off-site storage, an LSF Selection Working Group was convened in 2012 to exam ways of conserving available shelving space at LSF and promote such practices as a library-wide priority. In this regard, storing multiple copies of the same item (i.e., duplicates) off-campus does not appear to be wise stewardship of the LSF shelving resource. In order to make the best use of space available at LSF, the Working Group therefore strongly recommended the adoption of a policy prohibiting the transfer of an item to the LSF if a circulating duplicate of that item is already shelved off-campus. This recommendation was accepted by LEC and announced by the University Librarian as a library wide policy in 2013.