Best Practices for Selecting Library Materials for High Density Storage


This document is intended to provide guidance in selecting items for transfer to high-density storage.



The University Library opened a high-density storage facility in 2004 to house lesser-used library materials that retain value for an academic research collection. In the model chosen, cost effective operations require that individual items circulate less than three times in a given year of operational time.



The Oak Street Library provides a secure environment in a closed stack facility equipped with temperature & RH controls that significantly extend the life expectancy of library materials. When measured against other Library facilities, the Oak Street Library provides an exemplary environment for reducing the deterioration of library materials.


Access to Collections at the Oak Street Library

Retrieval of volumes from high density storage is frequent, with most items being made available as quickly as those now sent by campus mail to a borrower’s campus address or held for pickup at an on-campus library. The Oak Street Library includes a publicly accessible Reading Room where patrons can use materials on site as well. Please note that items must be requested in advance to allow time for retrieval from high density storage.

Titles transferred to the high density storage which experience significant use are annually identified and returned to main stacks or a departmental library.


When is the Oak Street Library Not Optimal for Storage?

The principle underlying the operational value of high density storage is maintaining an annual average retrieval rate of less than 3%. Increasing the retrieval rate above 3% raises the operational costs of the unit above levels deemed cost-effective for such storage. While a 3% retrieval rate seems low, the logistics of retrieval from high-density storage combined with the sheer number of items in such storage makes maintaining the low circulation rate important. Consequently, when making decisions about whether an item should be sent to Oak Street versus the Stacks, please remember that selection that increases the operational costs of the unit are not in the best interests of the University Library.


Identification of Items

In general, materials identified for housing in the Oak Street Library should meet the following criteria:

  • should have good bibliographic access
  • projected future use should remain low
  • alternate methods of access (backfiles, etc…) are available
  • not be critical to current scholarship but worthy of retention in a research collection


Selection Guidelines

  • Duplicates. Care should be taken to not retain duplicate copies merely to avoid withdrawing them from the University Library’s collections. A copy currently housed in the Oak Street Library should be considered the copy of record, and if additional copies of items are identified for transfer to Oak Street, they should be withdrawn to avoid unnecessary duplication within the facility.
  • Online Resources. Texts that may reliably be found completely online (especially journals and indexes) with some possible exceptions for “core” journals. These could also include locally digitized or reformatted materials that are likely to fit other criteria for selection, i.e., low-use, duplicate copies, etc….
  • Low-Use Serials. Runs of rarely-used serials, with the indexes kept or moved to Stacks or other on-campus location.
  • Low-Use Monographs. Earlier portions of runs of active monographic series as well as individual monographic titles that demonstrate low use.
  • Out-dated Resources. Outdated textbooks, indices, and other resources unlikely likely to receive significant use.
  • High-theft Items. Items from within the general collections that are identified as likely candidates for theft.
  • Materials Subject to Regular Replacement. Government documents materials that are not subject to regular use, serial runs replaced by microforms, microforms replaced by online resources (unless scholarly necessity requires keeping the earlier version onsite), maps and map sets.
  • Gifts. Gift collections help fill gaps within our holdings, but not all gift collections are likely to receive high use. Gifts selected for addition to the collection are prime candidates for direct-to-storage processing.


Selection Principles

  • Identifying suitable materials for high density storage is part of a larger process of intelligently shaping the Libraries’ many browsable, on-campus collections in a manner responsive to the needs of users across all disciplines.
  • Just as selection for centralized, browsable storage (i.e, the Stacks) is an ongoing responsibility, selection for high density, non-browsable storage is an ongoing responsibility.
  • Selection criteria will vary across disciplines, departments, and collections, but every discipline and collection has appropriate candidate materials.
  • The high density storage is devoted principally to shelving infrequently-used materials. On campus collection space will be used for materials that need to be browsed or that demonstrate more frequent use.
  • High density storage accommodates those library materials that most benefit from the facility’s optimal environmental, security conditions against theft and mutilation, and efficient use of staffing to manage low use collections.
  • Selected materials should have records in the UIUC Library Online Catalog. The Library is to have a full level bibliographic record for each piece housed at the high density storage. The catalog records will mitigate the loss of direct physical access.
  • Selection requires varying levels of review depending on the material. Whereas entire categories of materials may be designated for high density storage, other types may need a more in-depth and individual title review.
  • Selection of appropriate materials is an ongoing responsibility; it will require continuing attention to the identification of appropriate materials for shelving in the remote storage, both throughout existing collections and among new and recent acquisitions.


Working Guidelines

  • Items that fall under the Library’s General Policies Governing Materials under the Care of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library  should be sent to the RBML.
  • Items published before 1821 but not falling under the Library’s aforementioned guidelines for transfer to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library should be designated for RBOS and sent to Oak Street as appropriate.
  • Items with artifactual value (having, e.g., decorated bindings, manuscript notations, special marks of provenance, engraved illustrations) should be designated for RBOS and sent to Oak Street as appropriate.


Withdrawing Materials

This document does not supersede any existing policies or guidelines related to the withdrawal or replacement of materials from the University Library’s collection.

  • In general, last/single copies are not withdrawn. No copies identified as part of the CARLI Last Copy Pilot may be withdrawn.
  • The Campus Administration encourages the University Library to avoid retaining unnecessary duplicate materials.
  • Care should be taken when withdrawing material with bookplates. Every effort should be made to retain the copy which bears a bookplate.