By Allison Campbell-Jensen

Rendering of the Off-Site Collections Facility for the University Libraries
Rendering of the Off-Site Collections Facility, which is expected to be open by summer 2024 at the intersection of 29th Street and Como Avenue S.E. in Minneapolis.

This past June, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved $62.7 million for an Off-Site Collections Facility — a project long sought by the Libraries to ensure preservation of collections well into the future.

Currently, the Libraries has more than 8 million books, along with special and unique collections, periodicals, government documents, microfiche, maps, and archives of images and correspondence. While more than 85% of new materials are now electronic, physical collections will continue to grow.

“Having a new facility is critical for us to ensure that we properly preserve the University’s most valued and unique assets, while having space to plan for the future,” said Lisa German, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries. She added that the facility will allow the U of M to continue to be one of the top academic libraries for lending and sharing books and other materials.

The project is currently in the design phase until early 2023. Construction should begin soon thereafter, said Shaan Hamilton, the Libraries’ Director of Finance and Facilities. The Off-Site Collections Facility will be located near the intersection of 29th Street and Como Avenue S.E. in Minneapolis. Hamilton said if all goes to plan, the building is expected to be completed and ready for move-in by summer of 2024.

Bringing it all together

“Having a new facility is critical for us to ensure that we properly preserve the University’s most valued and unique assets, while having space to plan for the future.”

—Lisa German, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries.

Currently, the Libraries has collections in all of its library locations, as well as in Diehl Hall on the East Bank, in the caverns below Elmer L. Andersen Library, in the West Bank Office Building, and in the U of M’s Printing Services Building. By consolidating some of these collections in the new facility, the Libraries will open up areas in the Health Sciences district of campus, the central part of campus, and in Walter Library, for either re-building or for new uses by students.

The new facility is a tactic in the long-term strategy to manage collections at the University Libraries, says L. Angie Ohler, Associate University Librarian for Collections and Content Strategy. As she and other Libraries staff consider which collections deserve focus and expansion, they will now face fewer obstacles related to space. “This facility opens that door for us,” Ohler says.

What’s in a design?

With a reading room planned as part of the building, this will be “a living facility,” Ohler says. And the turnaround for borrowers who wish to have books sent to other libraries or mailed to their homes will be speedy.

The materials will be kept in a climate-controlled state, at about 45% humidity. The temperature also will be set lower to better preserve books. And the collections facility will incorporate the most up-to-date environmental sustainability standards, in keeping with the U of M’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. The Libraries expects the new facility to meet its collections storage needs for at least the next 20 years.

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