Publication date: 
Monday, 13 August, 2018

The National Library of Australia is the largest reference library in Australia. The collection is so extensive that it occupies over 240 kilometres of shelving in the main building and two offsite facilities. Library staff process 200,000 requests per annum through the Library's electronic call slip system, which is available 24 hours a day. Each year over five semi-trailer loads of new material is added to the collection.

A team of 26 staff face the challenge of providing efficient delivery services from an expanding collection housed in closed access stacks. To do this the Library is constantly searching for new and innovative ideas to continue to meet the Library's service standards.

A number of developments have been introduced in recent years to help us to maintain delivery standards. One key development has been the introduction of a running number system used for shelving all monographs published after 2010.

From a collection storage and retrieval perspective, the Dewey Decimal Classification system was posing a number of challenges. Apart from having to re-space the collection every five years to accommodate new collection items, long call numbers and large quantities of material shelved at identical call numbers was impacting on retrieval. The running number system has reduced retrieval times, and has reduced human error when undertaking refiling and shelf reading activities. The new running number system has not adversely impacted on our client's ability to search for material. The online catalogue has incorporated running number browse searching and allows the client to still browse by Dewey decimal classification from data which continues to be recorded in the MARC bibliographic 082 field.

To further enhance storage and retrieval efficiency of the collection, the Library has now embarked upon a project to retrospectively separate Australian monographs and serials into separate storage sequences. This will allow rotrospective barcoding of the monograph collection to take place in a systematic manner and will support RFID if the Library wishes to take advantage of this technology in the future.

The National Library of Australia is the largest reference library in Australia. Under the National Library Act 1960 the Library is responsible for "maintaining and developing a national collection of library material relating to Australia and the Australian people" and making that material available to "persons and institutions". The Library's statement of Directions 2009-2011 "puts accessibility at the forefront" of all of the Library's services.

The Library's collections are stored in the Main Library building in Parkes Place and two offsite purpose built storage facilities at Hume, 15 Km away. Due to the size of the Library's collections, material is stored in closed stacks which are not accessible to the public. Collection material can only be viewed within the Library and cannot be removed from the Reading Rooms. To access collections, Readers submit electronic requests for all print collections via the online catalogue and material is delivered to the relevant Reading Rooms. Staff within the Collection Delivery Storage Branch process requests from both onsite and offsite clients for material from the print collections. External clients can access collection material through the Document Supply Section either via the interlibrary loan service (ILL) or Copies Direct Service which allows individuals to request copies of serial articles and books (subject to provisions of the copyright act) and are delivered to the client electronically. This paper will focus on delivery of material from the print collections to onsite clients.

Our online catalogue system ensures that requests can be submitted twenty four hours a day seven days a week. The request is sorted electronically and sent to corresponding stack areas where Callslips are printed. This includes our offsite facility base. Each stack has a team of approximately three staff who work from designated workstations to retrieve and refile material.

Each year Stack staff process approximately 200,000 call slip requests and handle 600,000 individual items through retrieving and refiling. The numbers of requests vary each month. During non-peak periods, maintenance tasks are performed, including boxing, shelf-reading, labelling and bar-coding to improve the longevity and security of the collection. The Stack Services Section employs approximately 23 staff dedicated to providing delivery services from the print collections. Material is retrieved on demand and must be delivered within service standards outlined in the Library's Service Charter. Although the Service Charter requires material to be delivered and charged out to clients within 45 minutes from receipt of the request, material is generally delivered to the Reading Rooms within 25 minutes. Collection material stored offsite and special collection material is delivered within 90 minutes of the three cut off times per day, Monday to Friday. Due to the distance between stacks and the book lift (which is situated in the centre of the building and designed to transfer collection material between the stacks and the Reading Room) a wireless Automated Guided Vehicle System (AGV) is on call to move material to and from remote stack locations. This assists in reducing the amount of walking undertaken by Stack staff ensuring material reaches its destination within the designated delivery time. Stack staff have fondly nick named the AGV "Charlie". Once a Reader has finished with the material, it is returned via the book lift, sorted by Stack staff in the Central Stack and returned by "Charlie" to be refiled in the appropriate stack.

Logical stack arrangements are required to support efficient retrieval services. This is a challenge as our collection is currently estimated to contain ten million items which is stored on 153 KM of shelving in the main Library building and 87 KM of shelving at the offsite storage facilities. Each year the Library receives approximately 5 semi-trailer loads or 3KM of new material. In the 2009-10 financial year the Library received 41,745 monographs/pamphlets and 86,834 serials.

As you would understand, storage space within the Library building is at a premium. Motorised compactus shelving has been installed in most stack areas to increase storage capacity. Onsite there are five different stack areas housing high use collections. The offsite storage facilities incorporate high rise shelving ranging from 6.2 metres to 7 metres in height and stores lower use material. Material stored on high rise shelving is retrieved using stock pickers fitted with cages that hold purpose built trolleys. These trolleys are designed to be transferred from the stock picker, to the courier delivery van, and then to the Reading Room via the book lift thus reducing double handling and minimising delivery times. Material is couriered by staff in a Fiat van fitted with a Razorback mechanism that allows trolleys to be wheeled directly into the back of the van.

To maximise storage capacity, the Library stores print collections in different Stack locations, based on whether the material is Australian or overseas. Material is then shelved by size, format, and date period. To differentiate between these collections the Library uses approximately 200 different prefixes. An example of a common prefix is Npf N=Australian, p= pamphlet, f folio size Until 2010 most of the library's print collections were arranged according to Dewey Decimal Classification. This required periodic re-spacing every five years to provide sufficient growth space to accommodate new acquisitions. The overseas monographs and serials were housed in separate runs and the Australian monographs and serials were interfiled. In addition, call numbers containing long Dewey Decimal numbers and large quantities of material shelved at identical call numbers impacted on retrieval and stock control activities. By 2009 it was apparent that current stack arrangements would no longer support efficient storage and retrieval arrangements in the future.

A small cross divisional working group consisting of staff from Stack Services and the Collection Management Division was established to consider alternative storage arrangements. After wider discussion within the Library, it was decided to create new running number storage sequences for Australian and overseas monographs acquired from 1 January 2010; close and compact pre-2010 monograph storage sequences and retrospectively separate Australian monographs and serials into separate storage sequences.

1. Running Number Sequences

In the past, the concept of a running number storage sequence was not adopted as this would prevent reference staff from browsing the collection. However, in the current environment where electronic records are available for most of the print collection, the need to browse the shelves has diminished. Staffs from Reader Services no longer need to browse the collection; members of the public are not permitted to access the collection due its size and Occupational Health and Safety risks.

However, this was a major policy decision for the Library and a number of issues needed to be considered before the introduction of the running number sequences

1.1 Multiple copies

The National Library receives a Legal deposit copy (N) of items and may also purchase a second lending copy (NL) of Australian material. With the implementation of the running number sequences these copies would no longer be housed side by side unless they were received at the same time. This is also relevant for different editions and multi-volumes.

However, these issues have been addressed as the Library creates a separate item record for each volume and staff can check the location of the alternate copy through the Callslips Daemon module.

1.2 Length of the Running Number

One potential drawback of using running numbers is that the call number length would continue to increase over time. To limit the length of call numbers, it was decided to incorporate the year of acquisition into the Running number (eg N2010-235). This not only prevents the Running Number from becoming too long (as the numerical sequence commences again at the beginning of each year), it assists with measuring annual growth and streamlines stocktaking activities.

1.3 Generating Running Number

An in-house running number generator tool was developed by the Library's IT section. This system automatically generates the next running number for each prefix and automatically assigns the collection code preventing any duplication errors.

The implementation of running number sequence commenced on 1 January 2010. The running number system ensures that material is easy to store, retrieve, conduct special searches and stock take as each monograph has an unique call number. An example of some of the long DEWEY call numbers are NQ 704.0309915094295 031 (Keepers of the Secrets) and NQ 338.1762142099443

R989 (Centenary history of Norco) this increases the chance of misfiling and material being lost in the collection. The running number N 2010-3 (Contemporary state terrorism) and NQ 2010-4300 (Wildlife of Kakadu) reduces the risk of misfiling. The unique call numbers of the running number make it easier to identify missing items and detect processing errors by eliminating the need to assign cutters and edition marks. The ability to "virtual browse" Dewey Decimal Classification is still available without impacting on the client due to Dewey number being located in the 082 field of the bibliographic record.

2.  Separation Project

Over half of the Library's Australian print collections are housed in the East Stack. In 2008 and 2009, compactus units which were over 25 years old, had to be replaced. This required the collection material to be temporarily relocated to other stacks throughout the Library while the new compactus units were being built and presented a unique opportunity to consider alternate storage arrangements without double handling the material.

The decision was made to retrospectively separate the Pre 2010 Australian monographs and serials runs. Although this is a resource intensive project, it has provided storage efficiencies by being able to compact the monograph run and leaving strategic growth space throughout the serial run for retrospective acquisitions. It is estimated as a result of this separations project, growth space for Australian collections on-site has increased from approximately five years to eight years which is a significant amount. This has resulted in more efficient retrieval and filing.

3.  Summary

Would we do this again? Yes! Through the implementation of the running number and the retrospective separation of the Australian runs, although there have been a great deal of challenges along the way, we have achieved considerable operational and storage efficiencies which in turn, allows us to continue to Keep the Customer Satisfied.

In hindsight, we would not hesitate to do this again.