With increased intake and greater competition for students, smart storage can give universities the edge when building or refurbishing their estate. Bruynzeel are a Dutch manufacturing company who design and install specialist storage systems – what we call smart storage. In case you are not familiar with our products, you may have seen one of our roller racking systems on the BBC’s genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are? When the celebrity visits an archive to research their family history, there is often a series of mobile shelving units visible in the background. They can be opened up using handles on the ends of the aisles.

Bruynzeel was largely responsible for introducing roller racking systems like these into the UK from the 1960s onward. Since then we’ve recognised that universities – and especially university libraries – have become a very important sector for the company in the UK.

This article is written by Richard Tong. Richard is Bruynzeel’s sales manager for Scotland and the North of England. His experience in the storage industry is unrivalled, from significant installations for clients including the Library of Birmingham, to hundreds of small-space optimisations for archives, museums, and libraries nationwide.
From Back Office Systems to Front of House
Traditionally Bruynzeel has been best known for providing back office solutions – roller racking for storing a large number of books and archive materials. More recently, successes at universities such as Roehampton, Bedfordshire, Coventry and Greenwich have helped to generate an increased interest in our front-of-house solutions, particularly for libraries and learning resource centres. Popular products include our static Sysco shelving and high-density roller racking systems for ‘live’ student access. By utilising our electronic roller racking, these systems are faster, safer and easier to use for students and staff.

Storage Solutions Throughout the University Estate
We have recently helped create archive storage facilities for the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield and the British Cartoon Archive at the University of Kent. Specialist collections in universities are always growing. If the estate is committed to a new build, clients don’t want to be hamstrung by static shelving, so many will chose roller racking to allow for expansion and future proofing. There’s a growing interest in our solutions for modern records storage, where paper records are still required and there is a specific demand to optimise space. We even provide solutions for object storage. We’ve recently installed visible storage for the Lapworth Museum of Geology at the University of Birmingham. The system we installed is part of the University’s HLF-funded development to open up the museum archive, transforming it into a modern, accessible space for education and research.

Librarians: Don’t Leave Shelving Decisions to Last Minute
My unbiased tip to university librarians is to be actively involved rather than leaving the development and decisions over shelving to a facilities manager or contract builder. Engage the offer of help and advice from a shelving specialist as soon as possible. Don’t leave these things to the last minute.

Changing Attitudes on Campus
When I was at university, government grants were still available. I went to Liverpool. When I arrived at uni, we accepted it pretty much how it was. I’ve been along to a number of universities with my daughter recently. Nowadays, students are much more savvy, because it’s their own money they are spending. They want to go somewhere that has outstanding facilities. Universities have to work much harder to be competitive and increase student numbers. They are at pains to make the estate as attractive as possible for prospective students, including the library and study areas. Our roller racking can actually help. For example, Nottingham Trent moved its collection from static into mobile and created 33 additional places for students to study in its library. That translates directly into an increase in capacity – and potential income.

Smart Storage of the Future
Libraries will continue to be Bruynzeel’s core business in higher education. As journals move over to electronic storage, universities are putting reference books on roller racking instead, in order to conserve space. Libraries will always need storage. There is a growing interest in display and secure shelving for special collections – the library as museum has become a topic of discussion in the sector in recent years. On a more practical level, our LED lighting is becoming increasingly popular. It gives a far better level of illumination and saves money.

A version of this article first appeared in University Business magazine (Issue 96, March 2016)