Shared library facility with Emory opens for use

On Nov. 20, 2014, the collaborative effort between Georgia Tech and Emory University to preserve both schools’ library collections broke ground.

The Library Service Center (LSC), located on Briarcliff Road just off of Emory University’s Campus, is a facility created for the long-term safe storage of books, academic documents, and film owned by Tech and Emory University.

The removal of 95 percent of all books from Tech and much of those from Emory’s libraries will free up space in the schools’ existing facilities for student workspaces, with increased study space as well as access to technological tools and librarian resources.

“The Library Service Center is the physical manifestation of the relationship between Georgia Tech and Emory,” said Catherine Murray-Rust, dean of Libraries & vice provost for Academic Effectiveness. “Our big goal is a shared collection that extends beyond the collection in the Library Service Center.”

The Tech-Emory partnership, known as EmTech, was created as a 501c(3) biomedical engineering partnership and has been repurposed to create the Library Service Center. Rust expressed hope that the EmTech umbrella can be used in other fields for collaborations moving forward as well. The EmTech LSC is efficient in almost every way. “The building itself is quite energy-efficient,” Rust said.

“There are about 40 of these facilities in the United States and Canada at this point. But this one … the architects have spent a lot of time making it more energy efficient.”

One of the most impressive features of the Center is its use of space. “There’s an inventory control system that links the barcode on the book with the barcode on the shelf, and the barcode on the tray,” Rust said. “The idea is to minimize the airspace, because air is very expensive to heat or cool,” says LSC Head of Operations
Jay Forrest.

The shelves are over 30 feet tall and 200 feet long, so a complex organizing system is implemented for access of books.

“If you request a book to be brought back, either Emory’s book or [Tech’s] book, we will go through the system with the barcode number, they will retrieve it, and if it’s an article, say, from a journal, they will scan it and ship it back to you,” Rust said.

“If it’s a whole book, they will ship it to you back to campus. The materials are stored by side in trays — so not in call number order like in regular libraries — and they are storied in high-rack shelving. It’s essentially a warehouse design.”

Rust says that whatever traditional elements of library browsing are lost will be made up with quality service from the new facility’s automation and employees.

The LSC environment is perfectly controlled to be an optimal environment for all books and microfilm. “The Center is a very special physical environment for the long-term storage of paper and microform materials,”
Rust said.

“It’s 50 degrees and 30 percent relative humidity constant, which is the optimal set point for the long-term storage of paper and microfilm … It’s designed to keep collections that we want to have for a long time in an environmental condition where they’ll last as long as 250 years.”

More than anything, the Library Service Center is a symbol for the future of Tech and Emory working together. “We see this as the beginning — not the end — but the beginning of a collaboration that will expands and will grow,” Rust said. “You can go out and use the reading room, or walk around the building. It will amaze you. If you’ve never been in a place like this, it
will amaze you.”

Since Emory and Tech’s libraries had a 17 percent overlap before the merger, more books are now available to students.