May 21, 2022

Off-Site Storage: A Look Inside the Harvard Depository

The Harvard Gazette offers an in depth look at the Harvard Depository (home to 10 million volumes) in a new article, “Where books (and more) go to wait.”

The article includes several images and aninfographic with facts and stats about the depository.

From the Article:

This is patron service and stewardship at a massive yet precise scale. The depository holds about 10 million volumes on 30-foot-tall shelves, and industrial lifts are used to retrieve items for patrons. Each lift travels only about 200 feet, yet passes 300,000 books on 2,000 shelves. About 880,000 manuscripts, films, maps, University archives, and photographs, as well as books, flow through the facility a year, about the number of breaths the average adult takes in the same time period.


Contrary to trends elsewhere, when a researcher orders an item, it is retrieved by humans, not robots. People handle materials much more carefully than machines do, and retrieve them faster (in about 60 seconds), ensuring that patrons get their items within one business day. Most years, the team has a perfect retrieval record on the more than 250,000 requests received. “One reason we don’t lose things is that we take the time to do things right,” said Dan Moulton, operations manager. “We can get our hands on anything that we’ve put out here. That’s a testament to the people who work here.”

Read the Complete Article (About 1200 Words)

See Also: “New Texas A&M-University of Texas Systems Joint Library Facility Proving Broadly Successful” (September 22, 2014)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.