Mobile shelving is an excellent way to increase filing inches while decreasing the amount of square footage taken up by the filing system.

But how do you figure out which type works best for your needs?

Read my article “Questions to Ask Before Choosing Shelving for Your Files” for help figuring out what your particular needs are.

I have listed three commonly used types of movable shelving along with the advantages and disadvantages of each type. I have included Rotary Files, Lateral Movable Files, and High Density Mobile Filing.

1) Rotary File (Also called Times Two)

The Rotary File is a cabinet that contains two shelving units positioned back to back in a cabinet. The two shelving units spin to gain access to both sides of the shelves.

Comparison unit: One cabinet measuring 36-1/2″W x 82″H x 25″D

-Floor space required (square feet): 6.3′

-Total filing inches provided: 434″


• Attractive way to increase efficient use of floor space

• Unit can be closed and locked so files are not visible

• Suitable forfiles located in an individuals office

• May be configured in many different sizes and configurations

• Can be designed to hold alternate media

• Units can be used for room dividers

• Lower height units can include a work top

• Suitable for color coding

• Additional units can be connected together or positioned back to back


• Not as efficient use of floor space as lateral and high density mobile units

• Cost per filing inch higher than lateral movable shelving

• Actual shelving units need to be sized to allow the shelves to spin (lose filing inches)

• Need to be careful of over-sized items jamming the unit

• Requires professional installation

2) Lateral Sliding Movable Shelving

A lateral sliding shelving system uses stationary single sided shelving units positioned along a wall with units in front that slide back and forth to allow access to the records contained in the back unit.

The comparison system used contains 2 back stationary units and 1 front movable unit (I used L&T (4 post) shelving on the example unit because of its durability and versatility).

Movable System Measures 72″W x 78″H x 24.5″D

-Floor space required (square feet): 15′

-Total filing inches provided: 756″


• Efficient use of floor space

• Suitable for color-coding files

• Less expensive than units with drawers when total filing inches are considered

• All the advantages of L&T shelving

• Economical way to maximize filing inches


• Most of the files are exposed and unit cannot be locked

• Records are visible

• Difficult to add doors

• Cannot add to the height of the unit

• The movable shelves are not mechanically assisted (may be hard to move)

3) High Density Mobile Filing System

This is the granddaddy of the types of available systems for utilization of space. Shelving units are mounted on movable carriages that glide on tracks thus providing access to all the rows of shelving. With the floating aisle on this unit type you are saving floor space by eliminating the need to have an access aisle between each row of shelving.

Although many types of open shelving and drawers are often used to accommodate different media, for this study I will stick to units designed for file folders. I highly recommend L&T shelving be used on the movable carriages because of durability. The movement of the unit causes torque which may cause stress fractures in less durable shelving.

The comparison system used has one 36″ wide stationary single sided unit and two 36″ wide double sided movable units, all 7 shelves high.

Mobile System measuring 8’W x 78″H x 36″D

-Floor space required (square feet): 24.5′

-Total filing inches provided: 1,260″


• Excellent use of floor space, maximum filing efficiency

• Reduces need to use expensive square footage of facility for files

• Reduces need to use expensive off-site storage companies

• Saves retrieval time with readily accessible files

• Units can be locked

• All the advantages that come with L&T open shelving

• Mechanical assist means units are easier to move

• Suitable for color-coding files

• Convertible to accommodate other media

• Available with decorator end panes which makes the units visually pleasing


• Difficult for multiple people to access all the files at the same time

• More expensive than stationary units

• Floor must be able to hold the weight of a mobile file system (tracks will bend if floor is not rated to hold the weight)

• Segmented file room reduces the advantages of a high density file system

• Carriage and deck add to the height of the system (if ceiling clearance is an issue)

• Requires professional installation

If you need information about stationary shelving read my article “Stationary Shelving for File Folders”.

Now you have the information you need to make an informed decision about what kind of shelving to purchase.

>Please add your mobile shelving ideas here.

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