The University of Chicago will be opening its new Joe and Rika Mansueto Library later this week. Upon entering the glass and steel dome, some patrons may be surprised by what they find. From Big Think:
Inside this dome, visitors will find no book shelves and no stacks. Only reading tables in a reading room. It is what is beneath this room that makes the library interesting. Below this reading room is a vault where the books are bar-coded and stored in bins. Because the items are not meant to be browsed, they are not sorted by subject. They are sorted by size in order to maximize the efficient use of each bin. The volumes are searched for online and retrieved by cranes, then delivered to the researcher.
Of course, this will separate patrons of the library from the books, and drastically change the way they browse. Instead of being able to see what books are around a volume or a subject patrons are interested in, they'll be using a computer search system.
We've covered the plans for other libraries that would employ automatic retrieval systems and do away with book stacks, but this system is fully functional. What's more, it will serve major university, giving the whole scheme something of a seal of approval. Perhaps getting lost in the labyrinthine stacks will soon be a thing of the past.
Read on after the break to see video of the book retrieval system in action.