Library of Congress stacks bar codes three deep

The Library of Congress yesterday opened its first off-site storage facility in two decades at Fort Meade, Md.

The first 1,000 rare books were shelved in the 8,500-square-foot warehouse'the first of what will become a 13-building campus spanning 100 acres. It will house rarely requested books and periodicals, freeing space for the growing collection on Capitol Hill.

'It's long been something we've needed,' said James H. Billington, librarian of Congress.

To preserve the materials, the air in the $4.7 million storage facility is kept at 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 30 percent humidity. Library officials estimated the 30-foot-high shelves would reach their 1.2-million-unit capacity in about two and a half years.

Each book is sized on a template to determine the box that should house it. Then bar codes are attached to the box and the book. When a box reaches the warehouse dock, employees there use portable bar code devices to scan it and link it to another bar code on the shelf that will hold it along with arrival date and shipping information. The triple-level bar code data gets its own storage facility'a server-side database called the Library Archival System, which is accessible to remote users via Telnet.

Generation Fifth Applications Inc. of Kennebunk, Maine, provided the archival software as well as a data-harvesting program that uploads bar-code data from the portable scanners at the dock.

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