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Kensington Central Library

Kensington Central Library is home to the Biography Collection, which contains approximately 80,000 books with over 1,000 new titles added annually. It began as part of the Metropolitan Special Collection which was set up among the London boroughs in the 1950s.

Every title in the collection is available to view and borrow. The collection includes: biographies, autobiographies, diaries, journals, collections of letters and speeches.

The works of renowned public speakers like Winston Churchill and prolific letter writers such as Queen Victoria can be found here. The library also stocks collected biographies (about more than one person). Many of the holdings are out of print (the earliest dates back to the early 1700s) and difficult to find elsewhere. Over the years the library has amassed books from other public libraries, academic institutions as well as donations from members of the public. This makes the collection as unique as it is expansive.

The Brief

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea undertook a refurbishment of the Central Library in 2011; the project was principally aimed at updating its electrical services. During this process, the Council’s corporate property department saw an opportunity to utilise some of the existing floor space to provide a commercial income, by way of renting out rooms as offices and meeting rooms to the private sector.

To provide this capacity, the overall footprint of the library, including that of Biography Collection, located in the basement, had to reduce by half to create the required number of meeting rooms and offices. Local architects, Pellings LLP, had been instructed to provide a detailed estimate of the scope and size (in linear metres) of a storage solution required to accommodate the collection. Based on a 50% reduction in footprint, Pellings recommended the use of mobile shelving.

The corporate property department put the requirement for a mass storage solution out to tender, on the basis of a broad specification and a floor plan. As Link 51 were deemed to offer a wide range of products and could deliver a competitive price on supply and installation, they were successful.

The Solution

Given the area available and the inherent structural constraints, Link 51 worked closely with the corporate property department to provide a solution that made best use all the floorspace to maximise capacity.

The finished result is a mix of 55 x Stormor mobile shelving units, in either 8 or 3 bay configurations depending on structural constraints, such as stairwells and lifts (dumb waiters). In addition, Link 51 also installed a number of static Stormor shelving bays, which were fixed alongside retaining walls and in-dispersed within the mobile units.

The installation took place alongside two other contractors, one providing ongoing building work and the other fitting a new lighting supply. Link 51 also had to work within the framework of a decanting process; as the library collection was being withdrawn and the existing static shelving dismantled, Link 51 installed the new mobile units and static shelving in which the collection was then re-housed – the process was then repeated until completion. A workable and accurate decanting process was paramount as the collection was frequently used by journalists and writers for research and therefore key biographies needed to be on-hand (Nelson Mandela passed away during the installation, initiating an instant demand for biographical reference material from the library).

All components of the storage solution were finished in BioCote® anti-microbial coating, offered by Link 51 as standard, which helps to protect the shelving.

“The general feeling of the Head of Department (Library Services) and senior managers is that they are all very happy with the installation. It is an easy to use system, clean and robust and has future capacity to extend the collection going forward. The installation ticked all the boxes and the whole process was very efficient and unique.”

Derek Harrison, Project Manager, Corporate Property Department, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Call us on 0800 169 5151 to find to more or discuss your storage requirements.

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