History of The LSF
Yale University opened its off-site library/shelving facility in the fall of 1998. Conceived as a solution to on-going problems arising from overcrowding in the stacks of on-campus libraries, the original construction consisted of a processing area and a single six-aisle shelving module. The facility has since undergone two expansions, the first of which was completed in 2002, resulting in five more shelving modules being added to the site (three of which are currently occupied by the Yale University Art Gallery). In 2009, a second phase of expansion was undertaken, in which yet three more shelving modules were constructed, as well as a second processing area devoted to the preparation of special collection materials.
Currently, Yale’s Library Shelving Facility (LSF) comprises twenty-eight aisles, containing over 50,000 shelves, and currently houses approximately seven million items.
The LSF, like many off-site libraries in the United States, is a high-density shelving facility built on what is known as the “Harvard model,” so-named because this particular approach to remote shelving was pioneered at the Harvard Depository. Such facilities are distinguished by several common characteristics: they generally contain modular, adjustable shelving that is approximately 30 feet in height and arranged in segments called “ladders”; materials held by the facility are shelved strictly according to their physical size, thus maximizing available shelving space; all materials are located, retrieved for patrons, and eventually re-shelved using an inventory software application that identifies and tracks items by their barcodes; and materials reside in shelving modules where the environment (both the temperature and relative humidity) is stringently controlled in order to preserve and extend the life of the materials shelved there.
In the past twenty-five years, many innovations have been made in construction techniques used for high density off-site shelving facilities. Some of these changes have been the result of constantly evolving fire and building codes; others have been driven by a desire to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and make use of new building materials. The original construction at Yale, for example, utilized cinder blocks, with the necessary insulation later being applied to the interior walls of the shelving module. In the most recent expansion of the LSF, however, the shelving modules were erected using large, prefabricated concrete slabs, which contained insulation in their cores. This method of construction not only proved more cost effective but also sped up the construction timetable considerably.