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Architectural Association School of Architecture

How an important architectural journal collection was rehoused to reduce real estate costs

Founded in 1847, the Architectural Association has always aspired to challenge the established ways in which architecture is taught. Catering for around 800 students worldwide, the school operates from Central London and Dorset. Its alumni have made some of the most significant contributions, not only to the architectural profession, but to many other cultural and scientific fields as well.

The Challenge

In the summer of 2020, the school needed to move its store of around 5,000 architectural journals as the lease was expiring on the building. With over 360 linear metres of journals of varying shapes and sizes, the challenge was to rehouse its collection, which was stored on bespoke roller racking, whilst still offering a fast retrieval service for students needing to access the material.

With journals dating back many decades, it was essential that a suitable cataloguing system was in place for librarians to request the material students needed and for the required journal to be delivered to the library the next day. Furthermore, with some of the journals no longer published, the school librarians needed to be confident that the storage facility would provide the specific conditions required to ensure valuable material wouldn’t deteriorate.

The Solution

Crown Records Management was asked by the AA to provide a fast, secure, climate-controlled, fireproof solution, that would ensure the right journal could be easily and speedily retrieved and delivered to the librarians on site. The easy addition of new journals to the facility was also important. Crown’s Digital Services team initiated a cataloguing and barcoding solution, so that each journal was logged and carefully packed in specialised containers ready for shipment to its dedicated storage facility.

Now when a student needs a specific journal, they request the publication through the school’s library management system and the librarian contacts Crown’s warehouse online. At the storage facility, the team have a strict validation process, scanning the requested item several times to ensure the right journal has been located. The journal is then despatched via one of Crown’s dedicated transport fleet, who also collect the journal at an agreed date in the future.

The Results

  • From initial discussions, the process took two weeks on-site to catalogue and barcode the collection and less than two weeks for journals to be available for students to request.
  • The collection was packed using Crown’s specialist “white glove” service to ensure safe transportation.
  • All the important journal collection is stored in a secure climate-controlled, fire-safe environment.
  • Fast efficient service means journals are requested, retrieved and arrive within 24 hours and collected in a timely way.
  • Service has operated during the COVID-19 pandemic, so students can request journals via the librarians and have required articles scanned and emailed to them wherever they are in the world.
  • More economical storage of journals which were using expensive London real estate.

“I was impressed with the responsiveness of the Crown team who carefully barcoded, catalogued and crated our significant journal collection. The service we needed was available within weeks, and their careful validation service means we always get the publication requested.

Knowing our collection is secure in Crown’s facility gives the reassurance the Library team needed.”

Eleanor Gawne, Librarian, Architectural Association School of Architecture

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