Libraries plan for reaching capacity

by Thomas Bukowski | 11/19/07 3:22am

Baker-Berry Library may be at capacity in as few as two to three years. Library administrators are currently discussing solutions to the problem.
by Erin Jaeger / The Dartmouth

Of the 2.6 million volumes owned by Dartmouth's nine libraries, approximately half a million reside in the off-campus storage library. The off-campus storage facility, which contains three levels of stacks, was built in 1982 and subsequently expanded in 1992.

Since there are currently no plans to expand the available library space on campus, Jeffrey Horrell, dean of libraries, said the library is considering acquiring additional off-campus space, either to add to the current off-campus facility, or to replicate it.

Horrell added that the planning will provide 10 to 12 years of growth for the libraries' collections, although each library projects to reach capacity at a different time.

"The sciences generally have moved more aggressively to electronic materials," Horrell said. The Biomedical Libraries, for example, are projected to reach capacity by 2019.

Part of this move to electronic materials, Horrell notes, is that more and more journals are now only available in electronic form - often referred as 'born digital' journals. Though these digital volumes take up no space on the shelves, there are concerns over the ephemeral quality of digital information and whether they will still be accessible in the long term.

"Last year, Dartmouth joined an organization named Portico," Horrel said. "[Portico is] in effect an electronic backup for online journals."

If a journal's website were to become unavailable, its volumes would remain accessible through Portico. JStor, a scholarly journal archive, also decided recently to keep a physical copy of every journal scanned into its digital archive.

Disciplines that have more resources available in digital form -- and whose faculty and students are comfortable working with digital resources -- can afford to have more of their collections moved to an off-campus facility. Journals that are available in both online and print form are also likely to see some of the older print volumes moved off campus. However, these physical copies will remain available from the library's catalog by request.

Horrell stressed that affected students and faculty would be consulted before any significant plans to move a major resource online were made.

Going from print to electronic access can also allow space currently used to shelve books to be used as study spaces. The first floor of Feldberg Business and Engineering Library was reconfigured in such a way this past summer.

"Feldberg has a very nice teaching space on the first floor that was realized through this renovation," Horrell said.

Horrell notes that the working assumption for 'at capacity' among librarians is around 85 percent full. Beyond that point, materials may get damaged during shelving.