It was a major operation, the relocation of more than 3 million books and other heritage from the Ghent Book Tower, which was being renovated, to the new underground depot of the University Library of Ghent. Bruynzeel Storage Systems delivered and installed the new storage systems, with a total of 38 kilometers of bookshelves.

“We have placed the books by format,” says Defoort. “As a result, we have been able to make optimal use of the available space and hardly an inch of the storage system’s space has remained unused. Thanks to a new logistics management system with barcodes, we can still find all materials quickly, although two matching books can be stored far apart due to their different format.”

Preparation for relocation

It took three years to prepare for the relocation of the contents of the Book Tower to the new depot. Just selecting, removing dust and packing the books in acid-free paper and boxes was a painstaking job. A team of seven people has been working intensively on it. “The preliminary work took a lot of time and energy,” says Defoort. “But thanks to that good preparation, the actual move was completed within a few months.”


“We have placed the books by format. As a result, we have been able to make optimal use of the available space and hardly an inch of the storage system’s space has remained unused.”

Hendrik Defoort

Collection manager of the Ghent University Library

Monumental tower
The 64-meter-high Boekentoren is well-known in Ghent, it is a beacon in the city. It is – literally – a tower full of books, built in 1939 to a design by the renowned Flemish Bauhaus architect Henry van der Velde. The bare concrete tower is an example of modernism in architecture.

The tower has been a monument since 1992. For a long time it was not recognized as a monument, which in combination with very intensive use resulted in a neglected state. But insight into the monumental value grew and thanks to the efforts of many, the renovation was eventually started.

The largest part of the historical (book) collections of Ghent University has been stored in the tower for many years: a total of 40 kilometers of scientifically and historically important books, magazines and other printed matter. Before the renovation could start, these materials had to be moved. The new depot now houses approximately 32 kilometers of books and other material, which remained after selection.

Four floors
The new construction of this depot extends over four floors and is located underground. In total, it concerns three times 1,000 square meters of library space, of which a technical space on level -1 and three depots on levels –2 to –4. Level -2 is designed as a single storey, levels -3 and -4 as a double storey. This means that the floors are separated by a steel grid floor, containing extra high filing cabinets, divided over two layers.

Based on a European tender, Bruynzeel Storage Systems was hired to set up this library. “A good choice,” says collection manager Defoort, “because Bruynzeel has enormous experience with large projects such as this one. We benefited greatly from this throughout the entire process. ”

Bruynzeel calculated the optimal layout of the depots with an advanced computer program. Based on the available space and the optimal use of shelf heights, the result was fourteen “format classes”, divided over a total of over 40,000 shelves. “It was largely standard work, but it also involved approximately 15 percent customization,” says Defoort. “The depot is very compact, with mobile bookshelves. It was cut and contrive, but now we are really packed . ”

Mobile bookshelves
There is hardly any room for expansion of the collection. Despite the ever-increasing digitization, this is still urgently needed. That is why this depot will remain a book depot even after the renovation. The storage collections of the different faculties will be housed here.

The mobile bookshelves are manually operated on level -2, and electronic on levels -3 and -4. This in connection with safety; sensors prevent people who have become unwell downstairs from being trapped if someone closes above a cabinet. These mobile bookshelves have the most modern security functions that ensure the safety of the user and the archive materials.

Hendrik Defoort is a satisfied man. “But,” he says, “the most satisfied are the books themselves.

“When it is very quiet in the library you can sometimes hear them whisper, ‘Thank you’. “

Hendrik Defoort

Collection manager of the Ghent University Library


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