Personal Space: Johanna Rachinger on Storage Space

Living Space Interview Workspace

Her character fortunately fits with the organising capacity required from a Director-General of the Austrian National Library: The steadily growing collection comprises 7.5 million books and objects that are archived, preserved and made available across an area of more than 50,000m2.

As space is costly, rolling stack shelves make efficient use of space. An ambient temperature of around 18 -20°C and a relative humidity of 40 - 50% are ideal conditions. "The modern repository library, which stores books in one room while the books are used in other reading rooms, dates back to the 19th century. The books are very pragmatically organised by ascending serial numbers ("numerus currens") and retrieved by means of catalogues. Therefore the catalogues are of vital importance to both librarians and visitors."

As far as new acquisitions and future stocks are concerned, Rachinger is not so much concerned about their storage.

"It is a rare paradox that older historical scripts stay better with age, while more recent ones prove more problematic. Stone-chiselled hieroglyphs or Assyrian clay tablets, or even hand-written medieval parchment scripts endure thousands of years practically unharmed. Papers from about the middle of the 19th century are much more sensitive because their high wood content makes them brittle, until they eventually fall to pieces. From the 20th century onwards, the problems are altogether different because the new media, such as audio tapes, schellacks etc. also require special playback equipment.

When it comes to digital media, we are again not just concerned about preserving the physical information carriers, but also about the long-term use of information. Fast changing hardware and software standards indeed require permanent data checking and transfer. Therefore our future tasks mainly relate to the archiving of digital media, which pose completely new challenges."


Lilli Hollein