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SU Library Facility is emerging as a showcase for high-density offsite storage

Mar 27, 2014 4:11 PM

Exterior view of the Syracuse University Library FacilityMembers of SU Libraries’ Access Services and IT Services staff met with staff from the University of Rochester (UR) on November 18, to provide an overview of operations for the SU Libraries Facility (SULF). The exchange included a tour of the Facility, observation of the daily processing, and a discussion of the customizations to the public interfaces which guide patrons easily to the proper request forms.

The Facility opened in late 2012 and was built to house less-used materials in a protected environment. If needed, the materials can be retrieved for patron use, or for scanning of articles to be delivered electronically. Background on the Facility, and a glimpse of its workings can be viewed in an introductory video at, and on the SUNews website

Staff from the University of Rochester visit the SU Library FacilityUR staff were interested in observing the Facility as they plan for their own high-density offsite storage facility. Theirs is a comparably-sized institution with the same set of software: Voyager ILS, ILLiad interlibrary loan, and GFA facility inventory management systems. These systems are fairly common tools for many American college and university libraries, but they are only nominally integrated.

A scanning station at the SU Library FacilitySyracuse University is the first to bridge these systems with a variety of customizations aimed at: electronic delivery of articles from serials via ILLiad, same day delivery of print materials, minimized staff involvement in processing patron requests, streamlined uptake into the GFA system, and integration with the existing faculty delivery service, with minimal upkeep and maintenance.  In short, the goals were to allow easy patron access via several mechanisms to the various materials stored in the Facility, all from a single starting point in the Classic Catalog.

Interest in SU’s approach and facility was kindled following presentations by SU’s Brian Dobresky (to the Cataloging Interest Group at the American Library Association), and Merritt Lennox (at the ExLibris North American Users’ Group). SU Libraries has been approached about the pioneering workflows and automation in the Facility by the University of Western Michigan and the University of Notre Dame, in addition to UR.

Part of the intermediate web page developed by SU Library staffVisiting UR staff was eager to hear about the locally-produced tools that allow patrons to request articles via ILLiad, in a largely unmediated manner. The crux of the solution, implemented by Jeremy Morgan and Joe Foote, is an intermediate web page which allows the patron access to particular volumes and copies, and then passes the information – including the item barcode critical to GFA – to ILLiad for further processing, via local customization.

Another critical customization is the background processing, implemented by Lennox, which grabs the request, merges it with requests for non-serials print materials from Voyager’s Callslip capability, and staff-initiated requests for Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) materials at the Facility, and passes it to the GFA system for retrieval, several times each day.

Visitors had a lot of great questions about SU Libraries’ technical breakthroughs, and the thought process behind each decision made. It was apparent by the conversation that they were starting down a similar path to develop an approach to serving their patrons via a comparable automated integration of these systems.

For more info about SULF contact Charlie Russo at

Article by: Christopher Finkle

Contact Information: ITS Service Center,, (315) 443-2677