Final Report of the Bookstacks Reorganization Task Force

March 24, 2005

Envision this…

Your visit to the University of Illinois Library’s Main Bookstacks one August afternoon is occasioned by the need to consult three sources, none of which, alas (or thankfully, depending on your perspective), have yet found their way full-text into Google. You began your visit virtually from your office computer, having located the OPAC records for the items in question. All items appear to be available and you jot down the call numbers and floor locations [1] for each.


You approach the entrance to the Main Stacks [2] from the Information Desk area.  The OPAC gives the location of the first item you need-volume 12 of Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo-as the Retrospective Reference Collection [3] on floor 1 East, and the clearly visible signage[4]directly in front of you informs you that you have entered the Stacks on the first floor of the east stacks.[5] Another attractive sign a little bit beyond where you are standing readily identifies the reference collection you are looking for.  This extensive collection of material is housed on light colored shelving ;[6]the material is in order, and both the collection and the shelving have been recently dusted. [7] The call number signage on each aisle enables you to quickly locate the material you need.  You extend a conveniently located pull-out shelf [8] where you lay the volume while consulting its index.  Finding the entry you need, you move to a nearby area where you can read while sitting in a comfortable chair [9]  You decide to photocopy the article at the conveniently located photocopy machine nearby.


It’s now time to retrieve the second item on your list.  The OPAC has listed “Main Stacks Govt. Documents” on Floor 1 West as this item’s location. Returning to the center aisle you quickly locate the brightly colored door at the end of the aisle.  Even from your vantage point in the first addition of the Stacks you can see the designation “1 West – Government Documents” [10]painted in large letters on the door, and you begin walking towards it.  You notice that the floor of the center aisle is painted a cheerful bright yellow and you barely notice the maze of pipes and conduit running overhead because it is painted the same bright white as the aisle’s ceiling . [11]   Kind of the clean urban industrial warehouse look you recently saw at the IKEA store up in Schaumburg.  As you make your way toward the west stacks, you notice that the rest of this floor houses many of the Library’s beautiful folio volumes on one side, and on the other side, currently received unbound issues of periodicals . [12]  Overhead signage about half-way down the aisle directs your attention to an information display [13] aimed at helping the user navigate the five million volume Bookstacks collection.


After retrieving the government document from 1W, where all the different document collections are readily identified by signage, you head down to floor L4 East for the last book you need-a large quarto-sized book of historical photographs of Dubuque, Iowa.  A sign that reads “Photography” indicates the beginning of the Q.700s . [14]  As you scan the call number signage on the outer columns you try to stay on task for this particular retrieval-it seems to you that every time you come to this consolidated “Q” collection [15] in the Bookstacks you get side-tracked because so many of those big books are so darn interesting!


The Dubuque book securely in hand, you decide to get a little exercise and walk back up to floor 1 instead of taking the elevator.  In your earlier years of doctoral study you would never have attempted this in August, but now that the east Stacks are air-conditioned and those infernally hot incandescent lights have been replaced by compact fluorescent lighting, it’s quite doable . [16]  At the top of each flight of stairs, signage identifies the floor and the location of tornado safe areas and exit routes.  You pause when you get to the first floor to use your cell phone; [17] just last week your friend who uses a wheelchair was able to call the Main Desk with his cell when he needed assistance in reaching some material that was beyond his reach.


When you reach the check-out desk, the clerk is helping another patron.  Being in a bit of a hurry, you opt to use the convenient self-checkout station [18]nearby.  You exit through the security gate, having thoroughly enjoyed your successful visit to the Bookstacks.




A.     To review the physical arrangement of materials and staff workspaces in the Bookstacks.  This may include, but is not limited to, such issues as the location of sorting and periodical display areas, the housing of an accessible “ready-reference” collection, location of the government documents collection,  integration (or not) of quarto-sized materials, and distribution of call number ranges throughout the 18 decks.

B.     To investigate options for cleaning and stabilization of materials and the timing of this in relation to the stacks-wide shift and the installation of the sprinkler system.

C.     To collect data on the comparative costs of an “in house” shift and cleaning of the collection vs. outsourcing this work, and to look at the pros and cons of each option.

D.     To recommend moderate, low cost “face-lift” improvements to make the physical space more inviting to users, such as painting, signage, replacement of dark shelving with lighter shelving, etc.

E.      To meet with the architectural consultant whom we anticipate will be hired this year, to share ideas and solicit his input.




This report contains 33 recommendations, each addressing one or more of the first four elements of our above listed charge.  The architectural consultant did not visit the Library prior to our report deadline, but we hope to meet with him later on this spring.  Our recommendations are broken down into three areas:  1) shifting the collection and the physical arrangement of materials; 2) preservation of the collection; and 3) usability, cosmetic upgrades, and life-safety improvements. Section IV contains a chart wherein we have attempted to assign priorities and timeframes for our recommendations, and to estimate costs, where feasible.


Obviously, it was not realistic to recommend gutting the Bookstacks and starting from scratch, ideal though this would be given the enormous challenges of an aging building with significant and costly deferred maintenance issues. As a result, our recommendations reflect the reality of certain restraints imposed by the physical space itself (e.g., the shelving uprights actually hold up the floors of the east stacks!) Nonetheless, we also saw opportunity in the transfer of 800,000 volumes to the Oak Street Library Facility, a new resource available to us that will prevent the recurrence of the space problems of the past that so negatively impacted the usability of the Bookstacks and the preservation of its collection.  The recommendations that follow address both the constraints and the opportunities we see for the use of this important space, and we hope they will complement other proposals that are also attempting to revision the use of space in the Main Library.  As the primary repository for the Library’s vast print collections in the humanities and social sciences, the Bookstacks remain an essential component of “the Library as place.”




A.     Collection Shift and the Physical Arrangement of Materials

1.        The Oak Street Rapid Accession Project will conclude in December 2005, at which time approximately 800,000 volumes will have been transferred to Oak Street. During 2006, the entire Bookstacks collection should be shifted and all materials currently sitting on the floor should be reincorporated into the collection.   As material is shifted, shelves should be dusted.

2.        Surge space will be necessary before any major shifting or reorganization of the collection can occur.  To this end we recommend:

i.      That the transfer of the microfilm collection from Deck 7E to the Newspaper/History Librarybe undertaken ASAP, even if it means housing the film on the existing shelving in that area if the state money for the new microfilm shelving is not released promptly.

ii.      Once the film is out of the Deck 7E microfilm room, move the RBX material (and temporarily, the brief cats) housed in the Deck 1E alcove (Room 31) to the film room (which is scheduled to be annexed by RBX).  This would provide 13 range faces on Deck 1E that can be utilized as surge space during the stacks wide shift of materials. To secure the rare materials for the short-term, door locks will need to be installed on the microfilm room on Deck 7. See Recommendation A,5,j for additional recommendations regarding the Deck7 microfilm room and the Deck 8 “338” room.

iii.      Additional surge space is also needed; to this end, we recommend the removal of all University Archives material from the sub-basement, and the transfer of the French Parliamentary Papers and other large little used sets from the sub-basement to Oak Street. (NOTE: This transfer has already been approved by Mary Stuart and is underway.)  This will provide additional surge space in the sub-basement.

3.        To the greatest extent possible, except for specific materials and staff work spaces listed below, maintain a logical flow of call numbers between decks and require the least amount of material relocation.

4.        Consolidate all Q (quarto) materials on Decks 1E and 2E.  The current location of quarto materials is both confusing to users and wasteful of shelving space.  A decision was made when the west stacks were added to NOT shelve any quarto materials there so that shelves could be set at consistent heights.  This means that quartos in Dewey 001-399 are interfiled with regular Dewey numbers, but quartos in Dewey 400-999 are housed together on Decks 1E, 2E, 5E, and 6E. Consolidating all Qs together on Decks 1E & 2E would 1) allow shelves in the remaining east decks to be set a more consistent heights, conserving shelving space and eliminating the need to shelve some materials on their foredges; and 2) be less confusing for users. There are approximately 391,000 quartos in Bookstacks.

5.        Deck 5E is the entry point to the Bookstacks for our users, yet the space they immediately encounter is primarily staff work space for sorting newly returned and newly received materials prior to shelving,  and for holding unbound issues of serials prior to binding them. The remainder of Deck 5E currently holds United Nations publications, uncataloged Congressional hearings, and SUDOC materials.  As most users entering the Bookstacks are looking for Dewey classified materials, the housing of non-Dewey materials on the main entry deck contributes to user confusion.  We recommend the following changes to the organization of Deck 5E to enhance its general usability as an entry point to the Main Stacks:


a.       Move the staff sorting area,currently located in the 1 st addition to Decks 3E or 6E, and in the vacated space on Deck 5E create an easy access building use only Retrospective Reference Collectionin the A ranges and in the B, C, D, and E ranges back to the beginning of the third addition (where the Newspaper Library enclosed space begins).  The Library has a large and significant collection of reference materials that can be considered “retrospective” in that they contain information of historical value (e.g., older editions of Who’s Who in America), or represent works of enduring value that are infrequently used (e.g., the National Union Catalog and national bibliographies). Also included are early years of indices that are not available online (e.g., Reader’s Guide) and classic encyclopedia sets (e.g., Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo). Currently, these materials are located in the Reference Library or in reference collections in departmental libraries, or in the Bookstacks, where they have circulating status.


These materials can be brought together by creating a building use only (BUO) retrospective reference collection on Deck 5.  Doing so would reduce pressure on departmental library reference collections and free needed space in the Reference Room, while making the collection easily accessible to users and reference librarians.  Because users would likely need to browse through multiple volumes of these titles, they are not appropriate for transfer to Oak Street, nor are they good candidates for circulation since lost volumes would be irreplaceable.


This area can also be used as a pilot for several of the other enhancements outlined in this proposal, such as upgraded shelving, painting, etc.


b.      Convert the open carrels on the sides of this area to space where users can consult materials and develop appropriate subject signage for this collection. The walls should be painted and comfortable furniture provided.

c.       Consolidate the folios into the B and C ranges of the 3rd and 4th additions of Deck 5.

d.      Enclose the 5 th addition B & C ranges contiguous to the Bookstacks Office (where Bookstacks technical services staff work) to expand this workspace to house the unbound issues/bindery prep area.

e.       Move Congressional hearings, SUDOC collection, and UN collection into one half of Deck 5W (see ii below) and use this space (D and E ranges of the 5 th addition) for an expanded unbound issues collection.   Currently, only a portion of periodicals for which unbound issues are sent to Bookstacks are routinely bound, and this is a serious preservation concern. This consolidation would enable us to better house unbound issues before they are bound, and would also house them adjacent to where binding prep staff work.

f.        Use dry walled areas in center aisle of Deck 5E for an informational display aimed at helping users navigate the Bookstacks and its collection.

g.       Consolidate the following collections of various governmental  and intergovernmental organization collections throughout the Bookstacks into the north side of Deck 5W, with appropriate signage:

i.      SUDOC collection (currently on 5E)

ii.      United Nations (currently on 5E)

iii.      Great Britain Sessional Papers (currently uncataloged and in the sub-basement)

iv.      U.S. Congressional Hearings (currently on 5E)

v.      U.S. Serial Set (currently on 1E)


The historical Congressional hearings and US Serial Set are integral parts of the Federal Depository Library. Incorporation of these into the government documents section of the Bookstacks, will allow better marketing and promotion, more convenient access, and ultimately increased visibility and use of these specialized resources.  It will also result in greater oversight and preservation of these important collections. In general, centralization of such primary, authoritative materials facilitates and enhances reference and instructional services.  In addition, management and maintenance of these collections can be done more effectively and economically – both intellectually and physically – if these materials are brought together in one locale.


h.       Consolidate the microfiche and microcards currently in the Deck7 microfilm room and the Deck 8 “338” room into the sub-basement due to weight-bearing limitations elsewhere in the Bookstacks. We recommend that the servicing and maintenance of these materials been overseen by the new History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library, which is also going to be overseeing the microfilm collection.

i.         Once the stacks have been shifted, transfer the following ranges on Deck 8E to the Asian Library :  B18 – B25 and C23W to C25.  Ranges B26 to B27W are currently on loan to Asian Library and would revert back to Bookstacks.

j.        The microfilm rooms (Deck 7E) and the 338s rooms (Deck 8E)are air conditioned and contiguous to the Special Collections stacks.  Once the microfilm collection is transferred to the Newspaper Library and the 338 material is transferred to Oak Street, these spaces should be turned over for the use of the Rare Book and Special Collections Library and the Illinois Historical Survey pending preparations especially having to do with security.   This will allow for the continuation of transfers of older material from the Stacks to RBSCL.  It will also allow for the much-needed separation of RBSCL and IHS material.  (See also Recommendation A2 for short-term securing of these areas.)


Preparation of Rooms 7E and 8E:

i.      Provide new locks, install alarms and replace or reinforce existing doors on 7E and 8E.

ii.      Provide new locks, install alarms and replace or reinforce existing stairwell doors leading to Decks 6E and 8E.

iii.      Dismantle bricked-in barriers in previously existing doorways into RBSCL and IHS areas and install alarmed security doors to IHS open stacks area.

iv.      Replace incandescent bulbs within secure areas with compact fluorescent bulbs to improve efficiency of air conditioning.

By moving material now stored in Room 31 (Deck 1E to the newly secured area, much-needed surge space will be created for other changes within the Stacks (see Section B.i).


B.     Preservation Issues


1.        While it would make some amount of sense to clean and stabilize all materials in the stacks while we are handling them all in the shift, we think that the delay this would cause in completing the much needed shift of the collection (to accommodate new receipts and transfers from departmental libraries) makes this idea unworkable. Instead we recommend the following:

a.       As books are removed from shelves during the shifting process,shelves will be dusted.

b.      Book cleaning and stabilization of Bookstacks materials should be funded by an annual budget of $50,000 in student labor. Occasional cleaning is not sufficient; an ongoing program is essential to preserve the collection.

2.        Dramatically step up the campaign to secure funding to air-condition the east stacks . This is, obviously, one of the best things we can do to prolong the life of our collections and to improve conditions for both patrons and staff. However, these improvements must be preceded by efforts to significantly improve the building envelop (i.e., drafty casement windows, penetrations between additions, decks, and into the attic, etc.).

3.        If air-conditioning does not look feasible any time soon, consider installing transparent doors between the 4 thand 5 th additions of the Stacks in order to take advantage of the air conditioned climate in the 5 thaddition. Recommended doors would be clear and function with an automatic eye.

4.       Upgrade lighting to reduce heat and to save costs.

a.       Upgrade the incandescent lighting in the 3 rd addition with compact fluorescent lighting.

b.      Efforts to replace all traditional fluorescent lighting in the East Stacks with compact fluorescent should be considered as low hanging bulbs still pose hazards to patrons.

c.       The Library should consider the possibility of LED lighting , which is believed to be marketable within the next several years.


C.     Usability, Cosmetic Upgrades, and Life-safety Improvements


1.            Create separate location codes in Voyager for each deck in the stacks.  This would be a tremendous help for patrons looking for materials and a timesaver for staff who need to page/retrieve material from the stacks. This is doable, per Peggy Steele, with a nominal investment of staff time.

2.           Renumber the floors in the Bookstacks to make them more intelligible to users. Currently, users enter the Stacks on what is referred to as Deck 5, when intuitively they think they should be on the first floor of the stacks.  The half-floor numbers in the west are also confusing to users.  This change will require renumbering elevator buttons and other areas where deck number designations are currently employed.  We recommend the following numbering scheme:




9.5 6 10 6
9 5
8 4 8 4
6.5 3 7 3
6 2
5 1 5 1
 3.5 L2 4 L2
3 L3
2 L4 2 L4
1 L5
Basement L6 Sub-basement L6


3.           Develop and implement a comprehensive plan for attractive signage in the Bookstacks, including both directional and informational signage. Use overhead signage where appropriate and where ceiling heights permit.  Pay particular attention to signage that can assist patrons as they exit the elevators on each deck.  Use descriptive language signage to identify specific Dewey areas, e.g., American History, British Literature, Architecture, etc. This was done in the main stacks at Harvard and was enthusiastically received by users.

4.            Paint the floor of the center main aisle on each deck, with each deck being a different color, both to brighten up the stacks and for deck identification purposes.  Also, paint wide luminescent stripes down the center aisles to guide users and staff to safety in the event of a power outage.

5.           Replace the old dark shelving in the east with off-white, powder-coated shelving such as that installed in the new Newspaper Library stacks.

i.      Pilot this on Floor 1 (currently 5E)

ii.      Upgrade shelving on other decks in the east stacks over a period of several fiscal years.

6.            Install one pull-out shelf in each aisle to facilitate user needs to consult materials on site.

7.           Reconfigure and remodel the Main Circulation Desk area in conjunction with other proposals being developed to reconfigure space and services in the Main Library. Proposals should include attempts to remedy existing issues with (1) ease of use and flow through the building that will improve attempts to open the Stacks to undergraduate students; (2) collection security; and (3) life safety. Possibilities include renovating desk with a straight entry from the east (i.e., the Information Desk).

8.            Install bioluminescent exit signs and life safety signage.

9.           Enhance wireless receptivity to insure patrons can communicate by cell phone with desk staff and emergency personnel.

10.            Investigate feasibility for a self-checkout station near the exit from Bookstacks for routine check-out of barcoded items at users’ option.



(Timeframes: Short=less than 2 years; Medium=2=4 years; Low=4+ years)


Recomm. # Recommendation Estimated Cost Priority  e.g., high, medium, low Timeframe e.g., short, medium, long range
A1 Shift entire collection $82,000 ($41K in FY06 and again in FY07) High Short-January – December 2006
A2 Creation of necessary surge space in Stacks to perform A1 High Short-must be completed by December 2005
A3 Logical flow of call numbers Included in A1 above High Short-See A1
A4 Consolidate Q collection Included in A1 above High Short-See A1
A5, a Retrospective Reference Collection Included in A1 above High Short-See A1
A5, b Convert open carrels to user space High Medium Medium
A5, c Consolidate folios Included in A1 above High Short-See A1
A5, d Expand Bookstacks Office space High Low Medium
A5, e Consolidate unbound issues Included in A1 above High Short-See A1
A5, f Informational area on 5E Moderate High Short-See A1
A5, g Consolidate SUDOC, UN, etc., Included in A1 above High Short-See A1
A5, h Consolidate microfiche into sub-basement Included in A1 above High Short-See A1
A5, i Transfer ranges on 8E to Asian Library Included in A1 above High Short-At conclusion of shift (probably in January 2007)
A5, j Conversion of enclosed rooms on Decks 7E and 8E for use by Rare Book Room High High Medium
B1,i Dust during shift Included in A1 above High Short-See A1


B1,ii Ongoing book cleaning and stabilization Minimum $50,000 annually High Ongoing
B2 Air-conditioning Bookstacks Very high High Medium
B3 Install doors between 4 thand 5 thadditions to contain air-conditioning in the 5 thaddition High
B4, a Replace incandescent lighting in 3 rdaddition High High Short
B4, b Upgrade traditional fluorescent lighting to compact fluorescent High Medium Medium
B4, c Investigate LED lighting Unknown Low Long
C1 Create separate location codes for each floor in Stacks Minimal amount of  Systems’ Office staff time High Early 2007, at conclusion of stacks-wide shift
C2 Renumber floors Moderate Medium Medium
C3 Comprehensive signage Moderate High Early 2007 at conclusion of stacks-wide shift
C4 Paint center aisles and add luminescent stripes Moderate Medium Medium
C5, i Replace old dark shelving with lighter colored shelving on Floor 1 (currently 5) Moderate Medium Short
C5, ii Upgrade shelving on remaining decks High Low Long
C6 Install one pull-out shelve in each aisle High
C7 Reconfigure and remodel Main Circulation Desk High
C8 Install bioluminescent exit signs and life safety signage Moderate High Short
C9 Enhance wireless receptivity in Bookstacks Estimate $20,000 High Short
C10 Self-checkout station Moderate Medium Medium





Stephanie Atkins

Alvan Bregman

Jo Kibbee

Betsy Kruger, Chair

Mary Mallory

Chris Quinn

Lynne Rudasill

Karen Schmidt

Tom Teper

Karen Wei

Gil Witte






[1] Once the Bookstacks collection is shifted, we recommend creating separate Voyager location codes for each deck in the stacks, so that not only will the OPAC display the item’s call number, but also its deck location.  Deck locations will also print out on callslips for requested items, facilitating retrieval by staff. We have verified the feasibility of doing this with the Systems Office.  (See Recommendation C1)

[2] One of our long term recommendations is a remodeling of the Main Desk so that users can enter the Stacks from the catalog room rather than the less intuitive entry point of the side hallway.  (See Recommendation C7 )

[3] We recommend the creation of a Retrospective Reference Collection to be housed where the current sort area is in the first addition of the Stacks. This collection would house important older print reference resources relocated from the Reference Library and elsewhere; it’s location right at the entrance to the Stacks would make it readily accessible to both reference librarians and users. Photocopy machines would be accessible nearby. (See Recommendation A5,a)

[4] Our proposal includes a recommendation for extensive new signage throughout the Stacks to assist users in navigating the facility. (See Recommendation C3)

[5] We recommend numbering the decks in the Stacks in a more intelligible manner for our users.  When you enter the Stacks you will be on deck 1, not deck 5, and half-numbers for decks in the west stacks will be eliminated.  Floor numbers below 1 will be designated with an L (for lower), e.g., L4 East. (See Recommendation C2 )

[6] Over a multi-year period, the old black shelving throughout the early additions of the east stacks should be replaced with light-colored shelving similar to that installed in the newly renovated Newspaper Library stacks. (See Recommendation C5)

[7] Over a multi-year period, sufficient funds should be put into Bookstacks wages to fund sufficiently an ongoing program of shelf-reading and collection vacuuming/stabilization. (See Recommendation B2,ii)

[8] As older shelving is replaced, each aisle of shelving should be equipped with one pull-out shelf for patron use. (See Recommendation C6)

[9] The open study carrels and staff work spaces adjacent to the Retrospective Reference Collection should be converted to comfortable sitting areas for reading and study.  Open carrels on other floors should be similarly retrofitted. (See Recommendation A5,b)

[10] We recommend consolidating the SUDOC collection, congressional hearings, UN collection, US Serial Set, and Great Britain Sessional Papers on the north side of 1 West (currently 5 West).  (See recommendation A5,h)

[11] We recommend brightening up the east Bookstacks by painting the center aisle floor of each deck a different bright color and painting all the ceiling pipes and conduit a bright white. (See Recommendation C4)

[12] Folios are currently shelved under poor conditions throughout the Bookstacks, and we recommend consolidating these on shelving set to appropriate heights and widths on 1 East (currently 5E); unbound issues would be moved to a location on the same floor close to the Bookstacks Office where they are prepared for binding. (See Recommendations A5,c and d)

[13] This information display would be along the dry walled stretch of wall that encloses the Newspaper Library stacks. (See Recommendation A5,g)

[14] We recommend the installation of descriptive language signage to identify specific Dewey areas, e.g., American History, British Literature, and Architecture.  Harvard has done this in the stacks of the Sterling Library and their access services librarian reports that library users enthusiastically received it. (See Recommendation C3)

[15] We recommend that the approximately 390,000 quarto-sized “Q” volumes be consolidated onto one floor in the east stacks. (See Recommendation A3)

[16] Of course, air-conditioning of the east stacks is the single most important improvement we can make for collection preservation and patron comfort.  The incandescent lighting in the 3 rd addition should also be replaced with fluorescent lighting as soon as possible. (See Recommendations  B2 and B4)

[17] Wireless receptivity should be enhanced to insure that patrons can communicate by cell phone with desk staff and emergency personnel.  (See Recommendation C9)

[18] We recommend that the Library explore the feasibility of a self-checkout station for the Bookstacks.  (See Recommendation C10)