Thursday, July 28, 2011
Joe and Rika Mansueto Library
If you're wondering what in the world this picture has to do with libraries I'll tell you - it's the brand new book storage facility at the University of Chicago Joe and Rika Mansueto Library. All we hear these days is about libraries not being used, having their funding cut, closing or planning at least a partial conversion to e-books and electronic reference systems and here is a beautiful and heartening example of printed books not being discarded in favor of eInk displays but rather made even more easily accessible. At Mansueto up to 3.5 million volumes can be stored in bins in an underground vault of sorts with a 50 foot crane moving on tracks to retrieve the bin containing the book requested through an online system and deliver it to the ground level where the librarian will take out the needed volume and send the bin back to its designated spot in the vault. When the book is returned the librarian scans it into the system and the process repeats in reverse.
If you're wondering whether this really is more efficient than storing books in stacks we see in traditional libraries the answer is Yes. This storage system uses only 1/7 of the space that would've been taken up by stacks holding the same number of volumes and the whole retrieval process takes about 5 minutes (although the request system does indicate that the wait is 15 minutes I think they're erring on the side of caution there).
I love to see technology and old-fashioned learning coming together the way they do here and it was heartening to find out as I was reading up on this new library that Mansueto is not the only one where a high-density storage system such as this is used. It is the only one however with the book vault completely underground and as far as I understand it is the only one that utilizes the automatic storage and retrieval system the way they do.
If you're interested in learning more about this library visit its website here: http://mansueto.lib.uchicago.edu/. They have pictures, statistical data and information about the people who made this innovative library possible with their generous donation. There's even a great video showing the ASRS in action. Check it out!