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Off-Site Shelving Guidelines

The University of Maryland Libraries' collections, surpassing 3 million volumes, exceed the space available in campus libraries. In order to accommodate ongoing collection growth without sacrificing past acquisitions, since 2001 the Libraries have relied on off-site shelving (OSS) to provide the space needed to house materials from our various campus libraries.


The Libraries have designated off-site shelving for books and journals that are

  • low use (i.e. have not circulated in many years)
  • superseded by more recent editions
  • available on campus in other copies
  • available on campus in other format(s)
  • available online

These categories of materials have been identified since moving such items off campus is least likely to inconvenience our researchers. For journals available online, library patrons can access the same content anywhere and any time that they have Internet access, for example. Sending less frequently used and superseded books off campus allows us to reserve campus space for materials consulted most often and that contain the most current published information.

Targeting these types of items for transfer also produces fewer strains on staff and keeps costs low since these materials are not likely to need regular retrieval, delivery and reshelving. Instead, staff time can be devoted to processing our unique, current and high-use materials.


Thresholds that have been used to define "low use" for circulating collections in McKeldin have included:

  • Published 20 or more years ago and not circulated in 20 years.
  • Published 15 or more years ago and not circulated in 15 years.

Different subject disciplines may have different thresholds, however, so that other collections may set the bar elsewhere. The key factor, however, is low use. Transfer thresholds should be based on research behaviors and historical depth needed in various subjects and not be based on where space is needed or on how much space is needed.

When a library's space needs are so severe that materials that have circulated or been published within the past 10 years are being considered for transfer, alternative measures may need to be considered. Selectors should consult with Collection Management and Technical Services before sending recently-published or high-use materials either off-campus or to any closed stacks location.


Exceptions to low-use thresholds, resulting in retention on campus, have included:

  • Older imprints that came into the circulating collection recently, by gift or by transfer from reference, for example
  • Multi-volume sets are not separated even if only selected volumes from the set are high use
  • Oversized materials are not good candidates for transfer, since housing such items off-campus is not cost-effective.

Tiggers for Withdrawal

In the following instances, the low-use item should be withdrawn rather than sent to OSS:

  • There is already a copy in OSS
  • The low use item in question is the third (or more) copy of a dissertation available in UM Libraries.
  • The title to be transferred is the fourth or fifth (or more) copy available among library collections.

Detailed OSS Policies