Old Maas Brothers Department Store Becomes UF Book Depository
GAINESVILLE — Like other universities needing more space for growing library collections, the University of Florida has leased the ground floor of a former Maas Brothers department store to serve as off-campus storage.
Make that a lot of storage: UF’s new Limited Access Depository provides more than nine miles of shelf space.
Carol Turner, assistant director for public services for UF’s George A. Smathers Libraries, says the Limited Access Depository helps meet an increasing need for storage space. The old store has been fitted with 46,956 linear feet of shelf units that now hold an eclectic mix of material ranging from old books and magazines to archived records from Florida’s state and national representatives to old football programs and yearbooks dating back to days when the UF yearbook was called the Seminole instead of the Tower, its current name.
“We are in dire straits for space,” Turner said. “If you walk around the libraries, you see the shelves are all very full and there are very few seats for patrons. We have been removing seats to make room for the books.”
The depository will be used to store material that is not in high demand. Faculty and students will be able to obtain items stored there within 24 hours after making a retrieval request, Turner said.
UF faces the same challenge as college libraries across the nation: where to store their burgeoning collections. Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Johns Hopkins universities have book depositories either under construction or in the planning stages. In addition to UF’s facility in an old department store, depositories have been located in an old car dealership (Ohio University) and an old newspaper warehouse (University of Pennsylvania).
Storing materials in alternate locations isn’t exactly new for UF’s libraries, either. For the past two years, books were stacked in boxes inside vacant rooms at Yon Hall, the former athlete dorm in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium slated to become classrooms and offices. For the previous six years, material was kept in a Gainesville-area storage facility.
The problem with those solutions, Turner said, is that they really didn’t provide the type of climate control or access to the materials the librarians needed.
“Florida’s climate is very bad for books; you probably couldn’t imagine worse,” Turner said. “All kinds of insects, and humidity and mold. We had to have air conditioning that would keep the temperature under 70 degrees with 50 percent humidity.”
Unlike depositories run by other universities, Turner said, the UF depository is being planned to help the library’s collection managers do their jobs.
“A lot of storage facilities shelve by size, using space most efficiently,” Turner said. “We want collection managers to be able to review the material, and they can’t do that if they are just put in by size.
“We’re approaching probably close to 10 years that the material was in boxes and we couldn’t really look at it,” she said. “We have to have it in order so staff members can really look at it and know what we have.”
Turner said an addition to UF’s main library is being discussed, but the library faces a severe space shortage now, so UF library officials had to look off-campus. To prepare the former department store for its new role, contractors gutted the building, installed new lighting, sealed the floor and made sure the air conditioning system was up to the job. But Turner said that even with all the new shelf space, UF still faces a space crunch before the 10-year lease on the old department store runs out.
“Without a doubt we will need more space, and where we’ll get it is a good question,” Turner said. “The library keeps growing, there’s always new books. Even with all of the electronic resources available, I think the amount of print will continue to grow every year.”
- Ed Hunter