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Rackline’s completion on the second largest public library in the UK.


The brief

Manchester Council invested £50m on redesigning and refurbishing of Vincent Harris’s neoclassical central library. The project began in 2012, with the intention of enhancing the existing building, based on Rome’s Pantheon. The building’s circular architecture had significant challenges which needed to be addressed in the design process. In addition, the council specified that the interior should have modern facilities and a state-of-the-art library.

With these ambitions the council commissioned Rackline to provide a bespoke state-of-the-art storage system. Rackline faced many challenges during this project including, recovering a significant number of books that had been stored elsewhere for several years.

The solution

Rackline’s storage experts designed and installed over 18,000 linear metres of storage.

The solution delivered three distinct levels of bespoke storage solutions. Each floor had a different requirement from the council. The lowest level needed 18,000 linear metres of storage for almost one million books, this created a complex design due to the circular architecture of the building. Andy Reed, a Rackline designer, created a powered Multitrak system which followed the curve of the building.

On the fourth floor, the library requested it to be accessible to the public. To do this safely, Rackline designed, manufactured, and installed powered shelving systems – a UK first. The team chose the Quantum powered system, which features a “press and hold” safety system for moving the units. The design also added an electronic torque level detector that would cut the power once the torque went above expected normal use which provided an additional level of safety. These added safety features exceeded the library’s expectations.

Rackline included an ‘automatic open and close’ facility within the electronic mobile shelving, which allowed the system to open and close at different time periods when the system wasn’t in use. This ensured that the collections maintained a constant flow of fresh air, eliminating any pockets of stale air that might accumulate.

In the final design, the library requested to have esteemed historical figures of Manchester displayed on the end panels, Rackline provided vinyls to create a seamless panorama across the end of the storage systems.

Project Manager Summary

“The Manchester Central Library project involved months of design meetings and drawing revisions to establish the full requirements of Manchester Council. The in-depth planning and attention to detail ensured that the maximum storage capabilities were met, and vitally took into consideration user access.” – Andy Reed, Technical and Operations Manager