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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

We Have Done the Impossible and That Makes Us Mighty

The Library of the Future Where Robots Get Your Books


Flying against the idea that physical libraries with physical books are going the way of the dodo (and Blockbuster Video), the University of Chicago will be opening the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library next week, which is designed to incorporate computer-based research with actual books. Although, none of those books appear in the actual space of the library upon entering — they are stored in an underground storage area where they are retrieved by robots.

According to Judith Nadler, the director of the University of Chicago Library, the two formats are still a vital part of academic research:

“For scholars, the two formats complement each other, opening the door to a new era in research — and new libraries designed to make the best use of print and digital options.”

While conducting research on the library’s computers, those who find themselves needing more information or finding an online document with missing pages can request the books they need from the storage area online. It is then “pulled up to the surface by an automated retrieval system that keeps track of every volume through barcodes.” It is not uncommon for books to be kept offline because of copyright issues or for some online books to be missing pages or only provide abstracts. This library is a one-stop destination for researchers who need to fill in the gaps without going to another location.

The storage area has 3.5 million volumes on 50-foot high shelves. Below is a video of the robotic retrieval process:

For research purposes, this is definitely an efficient and innovative direction for a “brick-and-mortar” library. Though for recreational reading, nothing beats the afternoon browse.

(Wired)

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  • Patientetherizd

    im torn here. i love robots, but i hate closed stacks. i hope the library is well-staffed with people who can explain how to use this cool new tech to patrons. if not, that library just put up one hell of a barrier between information and the people who need access to it.

  • http://skemono.blogspot.com/ Skemono

    “For research purposes, this is definitely an efficient and innovative direction for a ‘brick-and-mortar’ library

    Having been to the University of Louisville library, which has a similar robotic retrieval system for some of its books, “efficient” would be one of the last words I would use to describe it.

  • stickwiththestacks

    Agreed. Just finished up my Masters at UofL, and the robotic retrieval system is a joke. To even request an item, you have to select it, and then enter an approximately seventeen-digit ID number and go through a half-dozen steps – this is for each individual book, too; the computer doesn’t remember the ID you entered. Then, wait 15-20 minutes, and maybe you’ll be notified that it’s ready. All told, it takes about a half hour to get one book. I’d rather spend my time in the stacks.

  • stickwiththestacks

    Agreed. Just finished up my Masters at UofL, and the robotic retrieval system is a joke. To even request an item, you have to select it, and then enter an approximately seventeen-digit ID number and go through a half-dozen steps – this is for each individual book, too; the computer doesn’t remember the ID you entered. Then, wait 15-20 minutes, and maybe you’ll be notified that it’s ready. All told, it takes about a half hour to get one book. I’d rather spend my time in the stacks.

  • Tabitha

    Relax! The Mansueto Library is only intended to house a portion of the University of Chicago’s overflowing print collections, with priority given to things already in electronic form, hard-to-shelve oversized books and special collections materials that already require mediated access. The vast majority of books will remain on open, browseable shelves.

  • Tabitha

    Relax! The Mansueto Library is only intended to house a portion of the University of Chicago’s overflowing print collections, with priority given to things already in electronic form, hard-to-shelve oversized books and special collections materials that already require mediated access. The vast majority of books will remain on open, browseable shelves.

  • Patientetherizd

    im relieved to hear that this is only a branch and that most of the books are still available in traditional means. but i wonder if all that money they spent on the robots could have gone toward, dunno, more online journal or ebook subscriptions? or they could have spend it on a more sophisticated catalog that would pull up physical books descriptions along with relevant articles.

  • Ghost

    So they’re restricting access to the stuff that normally needs a librarian on the job to check out (periodicals, over-sized volumes). Seems like more red tape to me.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY Frodo Baggins

    Yeah, it’s like the people who say, “technology = efficiency and ease!” Never had to deal with tech support.