Introduction: High-Density Mobile Library Storage
My wife and I are near retirement and planning to sell our big house in favor of one that brings up smaller dollar signs in the assessor's eyes. Unfortunately, I have a rather large library - over 10000 physical books - even after working hard to digitize as many as I could (I won't say what I have on hard drive ;) But smaller homes have much less room for linear shelf space. The obvious solution is "mobile shelving" but I haven't found a single supplier that has the nerve to quote what an installation would cost right on their web page (and I don't like talking to salesdroids) and besides, most are ugly leaving you looking at just a segmented wall with what appear to be hatch wheels.
So, I came up with this design, which I will be building shortly. One big difference here is the shelved front on each unit - this provides storage for frequently-used books or whatever. Behind the front shelves is a simple metal utility shelf unit with a matching width and depth sized for whatever you need (I figured four feet, some of the suggested parts have shorter versions that could also be used by resizing the base plate).
The illustrations of the parts above show the off-the-shelf (forgive the pun) units. They can be had from (for example):
Utility Shelf Unit https://www.schooloutfitters.com/catalog/product_...
You will also need a sheet of fairly thick plywood (3/4" would be good).
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Step 1: Assembly
You can see the layout is quite simple - the front shelf unit goes at one end of the base plate, the utility shelf unit goes behind it, and the rollers go underneath. Some minutia to remember:
- You need to fasten the two shelving units together to make the unit rigid enough. Preferably with zipstraps or other arrangements, at the top, the bottom, and where the fixed shelf in the front unit is installed. You will need to bore small holes, and make sure to go through wood - or, at least, MDF. If your front shelf unit is a cheapo model it might just use cardboard for the back, don't trust that, this thing could get REALLY heavy...
- Across the fixed shelf at the front you will need some sort of grab bar. I plan to use a simple 2" wooden dowel mounted to the case itself at each end, standing off about an inch and a half. This is how you pull the unit out for access to the rear. If you need multiple units, you will want to make sure these line up in an aesthetic fashion.
- Both shelving units should be fastened to the base plate in a sturdy manner. I plan to use screws for rigidity, however, epoxying the feet of the units to the base plate might also work well.
- Finally the rollers - don't go cheap on them, they make the whole scheme work but they have to hold some serious weight. The ones specified are intended for quite large appliances and should do the job nicely. I plan to mount them so the unit rolls in and out for access. You could also mount them to roll side-to-side (most commercial units work this way) but you will need to leave a gap for access and will have to shift (possibly multiple) units back and forth to move the gap where you want to reach. This might not look great, either.
- Think about how to best use your space. One idea I might use is to take out a chunk of wall say, four or five units wide, and install a four or five foot deep shed to hold the actual units. From the inside, this now looks like a nice, built-in bookcase of modest size. The shed unit can be built cantilevered from the foundation, or you could sink piers below the local frost line to hold the far end of the shed, if you are confident of your foundation, or centered under the shed taking the entire weight of the units and storage and requiring only weather sealing to the actual house wall.
- You may also have dead space next to a center staircase where there is now a dead-end hall. If the library is in the room opposite the stair, you can arrange to have the units roll in and out of this otherwise useless space (I would do this in my current house which had a center corridor from the front door to the back rooms where some previous owner put a coat closet, which was now inconveniently far from the front door and the corridor was only useful to reach it. But my current home had scads of room, so there was no point in being finicky.
- If you do something like this, consider carefully how to access the end units. If they pull out flush to a wall, the unit will have to swing for you to access stuff on the far side. There are a couple ways to handle this, one way is just to plan on reaching through (the utility shelf unit has no center panel, books could be placed either side and you could even stagger deep books opposite shallower ones through the arrangement. But to hold just "stuff" or to hold baskets or boxes, just push it in. If these ideas don't work, you can also get parts to build a half unit - one foot wide, for each end (to balance the presentation). Since they won't HAVE an "other" side, these won't need to swing.
One final idea, this design leaves dead space behind the kick panel of the front case, which has to be elevated anyhow to allow room for the rollers, which also results in dead space where the rollers are. You can access most of this space from the sides allowing you to place flat or small items on the "floor" under the bottom shelf of the utility unit. If the dead space is critical you could remove the kick panel and install a drawer. This could be quite handy for small items you'd like to keep more accessible but which don't display well. Wall wart power supplies, seldom-used remote controls, whatever.
I wrote this instructable to make myself plan the project out and to make a record of some of the conclusions I came to. I will update this instructable when I actually build this thing, but I am confident the design is sound.
Amazon lists the front shelf unit at $273.78 & FREE Shipping (they add enthusiastically)
The pair of rollers is $18 bucks give or take...
The utility shelves are $279.99. This should make each unit comfortably under $600.