Custom Corrugated Trays

Executive Summary

Two major universities have seen cost and efficiency savings through partnering with FlexPAC on an integrative approach to their high-density archived book storage. The University of Iowa first called upon FlexPAC to help with creating custom corrugated trays for their new library storage system. Many universities struggle with implementing library archives, especially when modeled after Harvard’s high-density storage facilities standard. After the University of Iowa’s success, Arizona State University reached out to Iowa to learn more about their system. FlexPAC was able to also help ASU implement the same system to offer the best care and attention to the books in their library, old and new.

Previous Challenges

The University of Iowa suffered from a flood in 2008, which forced their libraries to move thousands of their books to dry ground, which is against the recommended storage guidelines for books. University of Iowa libraries needed to move all of those books into an existing, off-campus warehouse. This caused problems for retrieving the books, as well as for the overall condition of the books. Arizona State University was looking for a more effective solution to their library archive needs. ASU wanted to revamp their existing approach to the high-density model and find a more cost-effective solution to protecting and storing their books. Through the originating formation of the new library storage facility, the team at the library storage facility wanted to find the most efficient and effective way to shelve their books.

FlexPAC’s Process

FlexPAC implemented custom-made corrugated trays with a plastic handle on one side to be used in the high-density, climate-controlled library storage facilities. The trays are used to group books together to then be placed on shelves in storage facilities with tracking & identification information prominently displayed on the facade of the tray. This is modeled after Harvard’s standard on how to properly organize library archives. This model has become one of the most prevalent library storage models in the United States with around 56% of libraries following it, including the Library of Congress.

The Harvard-model facilities are designed to achieve maximum space efficiency at the lowest cost of construction.¹ It was found that an extra tray could be placed on each shelf by slightly adjusting the dimensions of the trays. FlexPAC designed a new tray for them and created redesigns to submit to the University of Iowa. Because the University was building a new storage facility, it was extremely beneficial to get that extra tray on each shelf. FlexPAC was able to guide the University through creating a reference point and cataloging into their archive to maximize efficiency.

Results, Returns, and Future Plans

The University of Iowa is now able to have a centralized and consolidated location for all of their books, new and old alike. Through finding the new dimensions and allowing for an extra tray per shelf, the University is able to have an optimized and inexpensive solution to their specific needs. The University was able to centralize the library archives and create a more efficient and faster way to retrieve books.

Along with that, FlexPAC offered the most cost-effective solution for the trays at a 15-20% cost savings. This could have amounted to an overall savings of $28,000. Not only has the University of Iowa’s new storage facility found benefits through FlexPAC, Arizona State University has also been able to implement this strategy of custom-corrugated trays from FlexPAC. Their climate-controlled facility contains 1.5 million volumes organized by size and placed on 35-foot-high shelves. FlexPAC was able to offer them 30-40% cost savings from their previous tray provider. By following Harvard’s model for high-density storage facilities and implementing the custom trays, FlexPAC helped both universities to save on costs, increase effectiveness, while also being able to host all books in one centralized location to be sent out or picked up by students.

¹ Library Storage Facilities and the Future of Print Collections in North America

Lizanne Payne

Executive Director Washington Research Library Consortium

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