Whenever I’m out and about visiting the many libraries that I do, I have noticed a 50/50 split on wood and steel shelving. Shelving is one of my favourite products in the library and one that I have a lot of knowledge about.
I do get the attraction with wooden shelving. The warmth. The look. The tradition. Unfortunately I have also seen the high cost of solid wood increasing every six months. There has been a move to Melamine shelving (chip board or particle board) to reduce the costs. Unfortunately this isn’t always the solution. Did you know there are 2 types of chip board? High density and low density. The density refers to how tight the chips are compacted. So low density is less expensive but has less strength. There is also the issue of bowing. The shelves bow because the weight of books is heavy. People who aren’t in the library world don’t take this into account or know this. I have seen it hundreds of times. The other major drawback is if water penetrates the wood. It swells up and destroys the integrity of the wood. We once did an issue counter in Melamine for Cornwall Hill College. We added feet to the counter because the lady who cleaned their carpets always tended to use excess water when cleaning. We never had a problem with it.
Steel shelving, to me, is always the answer and a system I always recommend. Steel shelving does not need to be a boring and cold alternative anymore. Did you know that you can have shelving in a lot of different colours? Add to this end panels and top panels in a wide range of melamine colours and you have a very attractive finish. We once did Transnet Head Office’s library in black steel with white beech panels. To this day it still remains my favourite combination. Stylish and contemporary. The other major benefit of steel over wood is the security. You can see through the shelves so there are no “hiding places”. The last major benefit is affordability. It is up to half the cost of solid wood and up to 30% more affordable than chip board……and it lasts forever