Unlocking Access: Building an Inventory Control System for a High-Density Storage Facility
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High-density storage facilities rely on inventory control software to locate and retrieve the physical library resources they hold. In 2018, the University of Texas Libraries rose to the challenge of updating the inventory system written for its high-density facility when it initially opened in 1993. The Library Storage Facility (LSF) at the University of Texas was built to address the challenge of managing growing collections on an urban campus constrained for space. Situated nine miles north of the main campus, it was the third facility of its kind to be constructed in the United States. The facility would allow the Libraries to move some materials off site to preservation-quality storage in order to make room for new acquisitions in campus libraries. Designed to make very efficient use of space, high-density storage facilities like LSF have densely packed shelves on ranges that are over 30 feet tall. Materials are arranged by size rather than call number. While this approach to arrangement maximizes the use of the space, it also limits the ability to find items simply by looking for them on the shelves. Instead, location information for each item is recorded in an inventory control system. While this back-end system is not public facing, it is a critical component in providing access to these materials for patrons. As the number of items housed in LSF continues to grow, so does the necessity for an up-to-date, reliable inventory system so that we may continue to provide unfailing access to these materials. This presentation describes the work of a UT Libraries software development team to create a product that would replicate the critical business functions of the original inventory system while modernizing it for today’s users. Working within the Agile software development method, a product owner coordinated communication between key library stakeholders and the software development squad. The result is a web-based system that increases interoperability with our library service platform and allows for simplification of workflows and business processes at the facility. Looking forward, the new system will adapt as the Library Storage Facility expands and is able to feature storage areas for different types of materials. Together, a software developer and a library stakeholder will talk through the process of building this system, offering both technical information and a big picture point of view.