In storage areas shelving allows library materials to be organized and physically supported. Even if collections are classified by subject, this organization should not necessarily determine the location of the items in the collection storage area, to which readers do not have direct access. Ensuring the stability of the items—by sorting them by size and type—must take precedence over easing a user's browsing.


Shelving:  Steel shelvesAdjustable metal shelving, with powder or baked enamel coatings or anodized aluminum, is ideal for most books and manuscripts. The shelves must be wider than the objects, and the uprights regularly placed and firmly secured. Wood shelves are not recommended, since they may emit harmful gases. If no alternative exists, wood shelves should be coated with barriers such as wood sealants, which are applied directly to the shelving. Metal shelving should not be installed against an outside wall or beneath liquid-bearing pipes.

Shelving:  Book cartThe aisles between shelves should be wide enough to permit a book cart. The book carts should be easy to maneuver, with wide shelves and bumpers on corners, so that they can move between the shelves without coming into contact with the objects on the shelves.

Shelving:  BookendsBound volumes should be shelved by size, especially in sequestered collections, and provided with good but not excessive compression. This can be achieved by using sturdy bookends, designed with smooth surfaces and broad edges to provide nondamaging support to books.

Shelves should be partially filled to allow for expansion; tightly packed shelves cause abrasion and excessive compression can impede safe removal of books. Books should not lean or be stored on their fore-edge, since these positions apply damaging stress to the bindings and text blocks. Adjust shelf height to accommodate tall books; very large books should be stored flat on shelves, with no more than three volumes in a stack.

Readers pulling on the headcaps often damage books during removal. A better procedure is to push in the books on the left and right of the desired book, pull out the book by its sides, and then readjust the bookends.


Large, flat objects, such as maps, drawings, and rubbings, should be stored in chemically stable folders inside large print boxes or in steel flat files with baked enamel or powder coatings. Oversize objects should be stored flat in a way that ensures easy, nonabrasive removal at a convenient height.

Flat files stacked two units high (with each unit consisting of five drawers) provide excellent work surfaces for staff and viewing areas for patrons. Stacking flat files higher complicates safe retrieval, especially of oversize materials. Arrange storage and office furniture to provide clear aisles for transport and clear work surfaces, essential as temporary "staging areas" for flat materials being removed or refiled.