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When the University of Aberdeen decided to build a state of the art 16,000 msq new library, it was critical that the storage system would enhance the quality of the architecture.

The brief:

When Aberdeen University was given the go-ahead for a new library they decided they wanted something contemporary and original to showcase their University. With this in mind they commissioned cutting edge architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen to design a contemporary international structure in one of Scotland’s most historical settings. The building had to be visually stunning and yet practical as they expected more than 700,000 visitors a year, both from the student and local community. The façade of the building would shimmer in the day and glow at night and inside there would be eight storeys connected through a spiralling atrium. To complement this unique design the University invited Rackline, a leading UK manufacturer of library storage systems to work with them and the architects and provide a storage solution that would enhance the already stunning building.

Aberdeen University library

The solution:

There were two distinct product requirements for the library which had to follow the specific design that both the collections staff and the architects had conceived in their design. The modern collections on floors one to seven which included arts, humanities and social and physical sciences, were to be accessible to the general student population and also the local community. This was compounded by the demand to house collections of rare books and manuscripts. For these areas Rackline proposed one of its static shelving systems Proform, this system is designed for libraries in that its flush apertures protect books and documents for more effectively than conventional commercial shelving. In total Rackline installed 1834 bays and 12,270 linear metres of Proform shelving in a design that echoed the spiral atrium design of the first seven floors. The second element of the solution involved providing secure and safe storage for the Special Collections on the lower ground floor. These collections were not accessible to the general public so Rackline knew that a more sophisticated system could be employed here. A major issue was the sheer volume of the special collections which in total comprised of thousands of books and manuscripts in varying shapes and sizes. The design team proposed a high density solution being again Proform shelving on a Multitrak mobile base. This meant the entire collection could be stored with space for expansion. For the special collections the Rackline team worked with the archivists at Aberdeen to provide an ergonomic layout for the special collection system meaning access would be optimized at all times for the specialists using this area. All the collections both for public use and in the lower ground area were successfully housed in the final system that Rackline designed.

“When Aberdeen University approached us to look at the storage requirements for their new building, we were a little in awe. The design by Schmidt Hammer Lassen was unlike any we had seen before and the spiralling atrium in the centre of the eight storey building meant our designers had their work cut out for them. We worked tirelessly with the library for six months and they and us were thrilled with how the final storage complemented the new building.” – Fergus Doherty, Rackline Operations Director