Bigger, Better Bookshelves


A state-of-the-art, off-campus book repository opened in April, enabling the university to accommodate an additional three million volumes and better preserve its books and other holdings. The $7-million building, the newest addition to Duke Libraries, is the first phase in the William R. Perkins Library renovation, a series of improvements expected to be among the most significant in the library’s history, according to University Librarian David Ferriero.
“This is a milestone,” Ferriero says of the new facility, named the Library Service Center. “It will ease the shelving problems we’ve faced in recent years. What’s more, it puts us in position to begin the Perkins improvements.”
The stacks at Perkins and other libraries on campus are overflowing, a situation Ferriero described as detrimental to the books and other collections materials, as well as to their use. In the open-stack campus libraries, it is hard to keep temperature and humidity at levels that help preserve books and manuscripts. The Library Service Center (LSC) has been designed to maintain optimal levels and give materials longer lives.
Located at 5 Anson Street, near Durham Technical Community College, the LSC is roughly 23,000 square feet and consists primarily of shelving units. But it also includes a reading room, where materials can be used on-site; a staging area; a processing room; a garage and utility room; and other space for storage and preservation.
One of the LSC’s more innovative features is a bar-code system that will significantly reduce what is known as “shelf failure,” books shelved in the wrong places. Library administrators say the new system could improve accessibility to materials even though the facility is located off campus. A courier service will regularly deliver books to campus libraries. Less frequently used materials from libraries throughout the university will be shelved at the LSC, freeing up space in the campus libraries for new acquisitions.
The facility will be able to hold three million volumes at first, with the capacity to add additional shelving modules, raising the maximum capacity to fifteen million volumes. Administrators have spoken with colleagues at other Triangle universities about shared shelving. Duke is a member of the Triangle Research Libraries Network, which also includes North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Library Service Center has been funded by the university with the support of a grant from The Duke Endowment.

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