Interview with Mary S. Laskowski, the Head of the Collection Management Services in University of Illinois Library

I was really interested about the Oak Street High-Density Shelving Facility (OSHDSF) when we went there for tour. Since the National Library of Korea also needs the Facility like the OSHDSF. So I decided to have an interview with the head of the Collection Management Services in University of the Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library.

Mary S. Laskowski is an Associate Professor and  Head, Collection Management Services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Collection Management Services includes the Oak Street Library Facility (a high-density, Harvard-model storage facility) and a technical services processing unit.

She has a B.A. in English and an M.L.I.S. from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to her current position she was the Media & Reserve Librarian at the Undergraduate Library of the University of Illinois, and the Instructional Library Media Specialist at Valders High School, Valders, WI.

A full listing of professional committee appointments, elected offices, and publications can be found online at

Mary S. Laskowski(Head, Collection Management Services at the UIUC)


HYERIN : What is the Oak Street High-Density Shelving Facility and where will it be located?

MARY : The Oak Street High-Density Shelving Facility (OSHDSF) is a building being constructed to house mostly lower use materials from the UIUC Library’s collections.  “High-density” describes the particular type of shelving and shelving arrangement that will be used to accommodate considerably more material than could possibly be housed on regular library shelving. Rather than being shelved in call number order, materials of like size will be placed in trays that are shelved on 40-foot high racks of industrial shelving. An item’s location on the shelves will be tracked through a special inventory program that utilizes barcode technology and interfaces with the Library’s online catalog. The OSHDSF will be located on Oak Street near the intersection of Oak and Daniel Streets.  This location is approximately 8 blocks from the Main Library.


HYERIN : Why is this facility necessary?

MARY : The University Library recently acquired its 10 millionth book. The Main Library bookstacks are severely overcrowded, as evidenced by the large quantity of material that can be seen stacked on the floors throughout the bookstacks. Many of our departmental libraries are also overcrowded. Building an addition to the existing bookstacks would not only be prohibitively expensive, but would also provide only limited growth space for our collections.  The OSHDSF is not only less costly to build, but its modular design will allow us to expand the building every few years.  Like the first module that is being built now, subsequent modules will each have a capacity of approximately 2 million volumes. Total eventual capacity of the building will be approximately eight million volumes.


HYERIN : What was the difficulty to build the Oak Storage? The budget was enough to build that facility?

MARY : I was not in charge of Oak Street at the time, but my understanding is that there were some budget reductions that needed to happen. Unfortunately, some of the things that were chosen to take out of the building plan included the loading dock and the freight elevator. In retrospect those were very poor changes to make to the building, as their lack has hampered our ability to be efficient.


HYERIN :  Is there any other future plans or difficulties now go through in the Oak Storage?

MARY : We just last year finished shelving out the last module built. There is very little land left at the site, so future planning includes the possibility of a separate new facility at a different location on campus. One of the interesting things about the facility is that we filled up the capacity much sooner than originally anticipated, and in fact at this point in time there is more growth room available in the main stacks in the Main Library than there is at the Oak Street Library Facility.


HYERIN : Can you give some advice to the library which will make the storage like Oak Storage Facility?

MARY :  I wrote an article last year that looks at trends in high density storage facilities that might be helpful.

Laskowski, M. S. (2016). High Density Storage: From There to Here and Beyond. Journal Of Academic Librarianship, 42(2), 144-150.


HYERIN : What attributes do you look for in future leaders?

MARY : Flexibility in thought and action, and an ability to learn new things over time. Similar in many ways to the idea of hiring for attitude rather than specific skill sets.


I am very grateful to have an opportunity to interview with Mary and get some great insight from her theses. Thank you so much Mary!


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