By Shorba Harkhu
The Life Sciences Library on the Pietermaritzburg campus recently acquired a new remote storage area. This happened by default, as the old remote storage space was needed for the building of the UKZN Zebrafish Research Facility. We welcomed this move with more than open arms as the old space was being used as a dumping ground for all sorts of broken and unused material and the space reminded us of a dark and dingy dungeon. There was no proper ventilation, and dampness had seeped into the walls. The collection of journals that had been housed here lay open to water damage, mildew and pest infestation. This place was definitely not conducive to the protection and preservation of this collection. The staff also felt that it posed a health hazard, and dreaded trudging through the dungeon to fulfil a journal request.
The new storage space is located in John Bews Block A, measuring 5.7 x 9.3 meters. The old remote storage space measured 8.7 x 12.2 meters. This meant that the collection had to be reduced drastically to fit into the new confined space. Therefore, excessive weeding had to take place.
The iCatalogue and Sabinet databases were searched to ascertain whether the remote storage collection of journals were available at other South African universities. If they were, then they were discarded. A total of 155 journal titles were weeded from the collection of 213 titles. The weeding proved to be quite a feat, as one had to work in an area that was not hygienic, not well aerated, and had poor lighting. The above tasks were performed by the Life Sciences subject librarians.
After the weeding process, the journals had to be moved to a temporary location, as the compactum shelving in the old remote storage area had to be dismantled and set up again in the new location. Celeste Clark (School of Life Sciences Technical Manager) organised the move and her student interns painstakingly moved the collection to the temporary location and then to the new remote storage area. The project started at the end of 2019, and at the beginning of 2020 it had to be suspended because of Covid. We were given the keys at the beginning of 2023.
The weeded journals lying on the floor
The temporary location
· The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago houses an underground high-density automated storage and retrieval system. Materials are retrieved within an average time of 3 minutes through the use of robotic cranes.
· The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign uses an industrial-type warehouse shelving to house its lesser-used books. Items are shelved by size rather than call numbers, and are retrieved by means of a customized forklift.
· The Macquarie University Library in Australia houses an automated storage and retrieval system that contains 17 000 metal bins stacked 4 storeys high. It houses the entire library’s collection of printed material, is climate-controlled and has enough room for it to grow in the next 40 years!
 Available: https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/mansueto/tech/asrs/
 Available: https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/211759
 Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SegEbE_QhM
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