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RNIB Library

Link 51’s storage solution promotes efficient space utilisation at new RNIB library

RNIB National Library Service is the largest library in the UK for blind and partially sighted people.  Whether for pleasure or learning, relaxation or inspiration, RNIB offers a wide choice of books in audio (RNIB Talking Books), giant print (24 point type) and braille for adults and children. The Library also lends braille and giant print sheet music and audio tutorial CDs to people wishing to learn to play an instrument by ear.

Each year, RNIB delivers 1.6 million Talking Books and over 150,000 volumes of braille and giant print, bringing enjoyment and pleasure to over 41,000 readers cross the UK.  RNIB’s large collection of braille, giant print books and sheet music is provided free of charge and is the largest of its kind outside America. RNIB has a responsibility to ensure that this unique and important resource is protected for current and future readers. If all of the shelves holding books were laid end to end they would be the length of 1240 London Buses or if stacked, nearly 9 times the height of Ben Nevis!

The Brief

RNIB National Library Service had enjoyed many years operating out of its premises in Stockport, Greater Manchester, but due to steady deterioration of their resident building, a suitable replacement was required. A number of options were explored, with the most logical and cost-effective solution being to move the library collection to another RNIB premises in Peterborough.

With approximately 15,000 braille volumes on loan at any one time and over 600 being returned or issued daily, the co-ordinating RNIB project team had to ensure that the new premises could adequately accommodate this turnover of books and additional media.

A key priority was the installation of a space efficient mass storage solution that promoted ease of access, functionality and cost efficiency. RNIB tendered for a supplier and on account of their experience gained from similar projects, Link 51 were successful.

The Solution

Initial design considerations proposed by Link 51 centred on the provision of a mezzanine connected to the ground floor by two steel staircases and a service lift for the carriage of books by trolley between the floors.  A pallet gate was also fitted at one end of the mezzanine to provide access to heavier loads.

Due to the considerable weight of the loaded system, the books themselves weighed an estimated 200 tonnes, significant piling work to a depth of 6 metres was required to accommodate all the vertical steel support columns of the mezzanine itself.  Operating in a clean working environment, Link 51 had to ensure that rubble from the piling was removed efficiently and the area around the support columns left clear.

Further preparation by Link 51 included taking care of the lighting arrangements for both the mezzanine and ground floor, as well as the fire protection requirements including fire cladding and smoke detectors to both levels.

To create a flexible storage scheme, Link 51 installed a mix of mobile and static Stormor shelving on both the ground floor and mezzanine, giving a capacity of:

  • Ground Floor – amounting to 4254 linear metres
  • 380 bays of mobile shelving
  • 307 bays of static shelving
  • Mezzanine – amounting to 5893 linear metres
  • 733 bays of mobile shelving
  • 124 bays of static shelving

The mobile shelving, which runs on steel tracks, is operated manually by mechanically assisted tri-spoked hand wheels, each featuring aisle locking mechanisms for user safety.  For greater stability, the static shelving is floor fixed and has integrated cross-braced backs for ventilation.  All shelving is finished in RAL7035 with Biocote antimicrobial protection against mould. To fully appreciate the scale of the project, moving the library took 37 articulated lorries 12 days to transport the complete collection and over 1300 man hours to pack and unpack the books.

“During the initial design discussions, we initially had concerns that the storage solution being recommended to us would not be able to accommodate the complete collection from Stockport, but how wrong we were. Link 51 reassured us correctly, that the space utilisation would not only hold the collection, but would be flexible enough to cope with the daily demands of a busy service. The communication between all parties involved was excellent throughout the project and, in credit to Link 51, this was due to the efficiencies of their project management.”

Pat Beech MBE Manager – National Library Service RNIB

For more information on any of the products specified for Toolbank please call us on 0800 169 5151.

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