Harvard to add new unit at Southborough depository

Abby Jordan

There's Harvard University in Cambridge, and the so-called Harvard of the West, Stanford University. What many people may not have heard of is the Harvard of Southborough.

The university-owned Harvard Depository, at 1 Pine Hill Drive off Rte. 30, provides long-term storage for books, media and paper records and materials. At the end of 2007, 6.9 million items were housed at the depository, said spokesman Peter Kosewski.

Now, the air-controlled facility will add more space to store its ever-growing collection of tomes and treatises. Earlier this month, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved the depository's plan to add a 19,000-square-foot storage and archival unit.

Slated for completion by the end of 2009, the unit will hold 20,000 feet of bookshelf space, said Kosewski.

"We do not know how many items the new unit will ultimately contain," he said, noting that many factors contribute to how often the university archives books or media.

The new space could go a long way. The depository stores items by size rather than subject or author, and adjustable shelves mean the depository can adjust to the height required to conserve space.

The depository opened in 1986 and added another unit in 1991. A high-rise cold-storage vault was built in 1995 and a fourth storage module was added a year later.

Two large units, featuring refrigerator-like technology, were completed in 1999, with each offering 1.5 times more storage space than the original. Another large unit, used for temporary storage of departmental records, was built in 2004.

The site in Southborough could hold as many as 15 storage units, totaling approximately 200,000 square feet of space.

In addition to books, records and other paper materials, the depository stores film, microfilm and magnetic tapes. Because it is closed to the public, a computerized inventory-tracking system finds requested items, which are then moved from the Southborough facility.

A climate-control system continuously monitors the storage areas, fixing temperature and humidity levels at 50 degrees and 35 percent relative humidity. The film-storage vault stays a bit cooler, at 40 degrees.

"The system automatically monitors ambient storage conditions on a continuous cycle to minimize the rate of change," said Kosewski.

Air circulation and filter devices are used to remove harmful particles and gases from the air, and ultraviolet radiation-shielded fluorescent lamps keep light from damaging the units' contents.

Abby Jordan can be reached at 508-490-7461 or

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