About Us

Preservation Unit 
425 Library, MC-522
UIUC Library
1408 West Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801

Conservation Lab 
Oak St. Library Facility
OSLF, 2nd Floor
809 South Oak Street
Mail Code 527
Champaign, IL 61820

Digital Content Creation 
413 Library, MC-522
UIUC Library
1408 West Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801


The University of Illinois Library-Oak Street Facility is a high density storage facility that stores special collection materials and books along with low demand general collection items.  While the facility works in tandem with the main library on campus, it is the primary holder of priceless materials such as the Assembly Hall architectural drawings or aged one-of-a-kind maps. It currently houses 1.5 million general collection items which are delivered from other university libraries for storage. The facility is also home to 48,000 rare and special collection items, many which are priceless and cannot be found anywhere else.

Tray with barcodeWhen materials arrive at Oak Street, books are organized by size and placed in cardboard trays, as shown in Figure 1.1. Once a tray is filled, each book’s barcode is entered into the Library Archival System (LAS) and given a location in one of the two modules (sections) that form Oak Street’s storage area. Trays are given a location based on height rather than content or status as a “general” or “special” item to maximize the number of trays stored on a shelving column. As shown in Figure 1.2, the two modules contain rows of shelving that are 40 feet high and 106 feet long; each shelf is 3 feet deep and can hold two trays deep worth of materials. Every book, tray, and storage location has a barcode and all three barcodes create an address for the book. A book’s address allows the facility to maintain intellectual control of it. “Intellectual control” is the facility’s ability to locate a book and access its content. If the book’s barcode is known, the LAS can be used to determine its location within the facility.

ShelvingTrays are placed at their locations using a custom built Raymond lift (Figure 1.3) that must operate on ultra flat floors. The Raymond lift can operate when water is present, however it should not be operated in water greater than two inches, to avoid any risk of damaging the vehicle’s electronics. There is also an eight foot movable stair ladder present in each module which is sometimes used to place or retrieve trays if the lift is unable to operate.

Early detection at the Oak Street Facility is minimal, with each module containing a fire sprinkler system. No additional fire detection exists, and smoke detectors are restricted to the administrative sections of the building. A hygrothermograph is located in each module to record temperature and humidity, and the storage area is kept at a constant 500 F and 30% humidity.  Currently, there are no water sensors present.

Raymond liftThe facility’s current disaster recovery plan lists the steps to be taken after a disaster event, including contacts and procedures for restoring damaged items, but does not include a fully developed procedure for reacting to various disasters and provides no guidance on how to efficiently remove damaged items while maintaining intellectual control. Possible disaster events directly affecting the Oak Street Facility include tornadoes, earthquakes, train derailment (railroad tracks are located 50 feet from the building), fires, flooding, sprinkler malfunctions, leaking pipes, and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) failure. A disaster such as a tornado, earthquake, or train derailment may cause damage to the building as well as the storage shelves. Under such an eventuality, books and trays can be expected to fall into the aisles, blocking retrieval paths and delaying recovery. Because these disasters may also result in broken pipes and flooding, the most likely result of any disaster is water damage. If the building loses electricity during an event the HVAC system will be unable to maintain the storage area’s required humidity and temperature. When water is present, this may lead to mold formation within 48 hours.

Problem Statement

The Oak Street Facility desires that a disaster recovery plan be developed for efficient removal and recovery of collection items.

Scope of Work

  1. The current facility and disaster plan must be analyzed and compared to other high density storage facilities, both in libraries and in industries alike.
  2. The disaster event probabilities and their distributions must be determined from available statistical data. After defining the critical disaster events, their expected economic impact will be measured in terms of annual liability to the facility. 
  3. Tests will be run to determine the extent of book swelling as well as the effects of water on tray and shelving structural integrity. 
  4. An assessment of the current detection systems must be conducted along with an evaluation of current sprinkler design. New early detection systems and sensors, along with their placements, will be recommended to support the recovery plan.
  5. A disaster recovery plan must be created using the location of high priority materials to develop an algorithm that efficiently retrieves collection items.  Solutions for the physical recovery of collection items, such as providing supplemental machines to the current retrieval lift and designing a book cart that provides overhead protection from falling items, must be developed.
  6. Various recommendations must be made to maintain intellectual control in the disaster recovery process.


A disaster recovery plan that contains statistical determinations of disaster probabilities, early detection recommendations with economic analysis, retrieval schemes, and methods for post-disaster recovery.


Team Objectives

The following objectives were determined to be necessary for the successful completion of this project:

  1. Review of Current Disaster Recovery Plan and Literature.  An in-depth understanding of the present disaster plan must be developed along with a grasp of the obstacles that need to be overcome.  Current industry solutions will also be reviewed in the disaster recovery plan development.
  2. Assessment of Disaster Probabilities.  The disaster event probabilities and distributions will be determined based on available statistical data in order to focus the disaster recovery plan on realistic high density library disasters.
  3. Analysis of Economic Impact.  After defining the critical disaster events, their destructiveness in terms of economic impact will be studied.  This economic analysis will be based on the various scales of disaster events as well as the different collections stored in the facility.
  4. Evaluation of Early Disaster Detection.  Weaknesses will be identified with regards to the current disaster detection systems and recommendations will be made for additional disaster detection to aid in the recovery plan.
  5. Recovery Algorithm Development.  An algorithm will be developed to provide a basis for an effective and efficient process for recovering special collection items rapidly.
  6. Inventory Control Solution.  Various recommendations will be made to address the issue of intellectual property loss in the disaster recovery process.
  7. Conclusions.  A summary of the findings obtained from experimentation and research are related to project objectives and goals including a financial analysis in coordination with the critical disaster events.  
  8. Recommendations.  A course of action regarding the disaster recovery process will be made based on testing and disaster event analysis.  Various other solutions will also be proposed in the disaster recovery plan to aid the disaster recovery process.

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