The Brown Library is installing automatic compact shelving on the bottom floor in an effort to open up more study areas for students.
The shelves are scheduled to be finished by the end of October.
Dr. Carisse Berryhill, associate dean of special collections and university archives, said the addition of the automatic shelves means the library doesn’t have to store materials off-site or construct a new space.
“It enables us to more efficiently steward the square footage that we already have,” she said. “It has the additional payoff of freeing up a very beautiful space on the top floor, and giving us options there to design a space that will take advantage of the natural attraction of that area.”
Dr. Mark McCallon, associate dean of library services, said as a part of the ongoing campus renovations, several departments have had to relocate. The library decided to partner with the Graduate School and offered them the new third floor area.
“The English department is moving to where the graduate school is now, and the graduate school was wanting a very public space,” he said. “We wanted to give that to them.”
The construction of the new Graduate Commons on the third floor of the library meant the books there had to be moved, McCallon said. Consultants encouraged the library to move the entire print collection to the first floor to create a bibliographic center in the library.
All books categorized using the Dewey decimal system will be stored on the bottom floor, excluding the religious texts currently located in the Stanley Reading Room.
“It’s about 380,000 volumes or so,” McCallon said. “But with the compact shelving, we’ll have room for about 415,000. We’ll still have about 12 to 13 percent growth. We’re not getting rid of any books.”
Compact shelving will also allow the study area on the bottom floor to span the length of the entire floor instead of a small corner of the space.
“The students really love that space down there,” McCallon said. “It’s a quiet place to study, so that will be preserved.”
The new shelves are run by electric motors and operated by a small control panel on each end. Among the safety features are sensors that automatically stop the motor if they detect a person or object between the shelves.
“It has safety features so a person won’t be squashed like a bug,” Berryhill said.