Book Storage Facility

In October 2010, the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford unveiled a new £26-million Book Storage Facility (BSF), capable of holding 8.4 million volumes** on 153 miles of shelving.

The new book warehouse, in South Marston, near Swindon, has been built to store the lower-usage items from the Libraries’ collections that had overwhelmed the existing bookstacks and required additional temporary storage in various locations in and outside Oxford. These collections have now been brought together at the BSF, including books, maps, manuscripts, microfilms, periodicals and newspapers primarily from the 18th century onwards. In the year following the BSF's opening, over 6 million books were moved into the BSF in what has been the biggest book move in the Bodleian’s history (see Book Moves).

The Book Storage Facility consists of an eleven-metre tall solid shelving system comprising 31 Very Narrow Aisles (VNA), with seven different bay type configurations to accommodate the different sizes of books and other materials. It also has a capacity equivalent to 153 miles (230 kilometres) of shelf space and a five level multi-tier structure for map storage. To guarantee the books’ preservation for the long-term, volumes are stored in 745,000 bar-coded and specially designed storage trays and boxes that are of archival standard. Floor area of the warehouse equates to 1.6 football pitches, although the high-density shelving provides shelf surface area equivalent to 16.5 football pitches.

The decision to site the facility outside Oxford has been informed by the new academic strategy for the Libraries. This focuses on increasing the overall speed of access to information by providing direct access to high-demand print collections, increased online access to materials and electronic document delivery. As a result of this strategy, the BSF will be used to house low-use collections, many of which exist in electronic form.

The new facility will also enable the New Bodleian to be redeveloped as a modern special collections library and research centre. While the BSF will house predominantly low-use items from the New Bodleian’s collections, the Radcliffe Science Library has become the temporary home for a high proportion of the University’s special collections. This means that high-value books and manuscripts can be retained in central Oxford.

Construction began in summer 2009 and was completed in less than a year.

 **The BSF has since been reconfigured and can now hold 12-13 million items. As of July 2017, it held over 10 million items.

BSF Facts and Figures

  • Racking  - 11.4m high, aisle length 71 metres
                   - 31 Aisles totalling 3,224 bays with 95,000 shelf levels
                   - 2,196 tons of steel
                   - 4550m of safety rail
                   - Over 25,000 nuts and bolts
                   - Over 1,000,000 rivets 
                   - Over 18,000 floor fixings
  • Archived microfilm stored - 1600 linear metres
  • 600 map cabinets hold over 1.2 million maps and large format items
  • Cables - 49,500 metres of fire alarm, sub mains, lighting, power and security cables

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