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Australia Books Robotics Hardware

Australian Uni's Underground, Robot-Staffed Library 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the skynet-was-born-from-a-hatred-of-the-dewey-decimal-system dept.
angry tapir writes "As part of a $1 billion upgrade of its city campus, the University of Technology, Sydney is installing an underground automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) for its library collection. The ASRS is in response to the need to house a growing collection and free up physical space for the new 'library of the future', which is to open in 2015 to 2016, so that people can be at the center of the library rather than the books. The ASRS, which will connect to the new library, consists of six 15-meter high robotic cranes that operate bins filled with books. When an item is being stored or retrieved, the bins will move up and down aisles as well as to and from the library. Items will be stored in bins based on their spine heights. About 900,000 items will be stored underground, starting with 60 per cent of the library's collection and rising to 80 per cent. About 250,000 items purchased from the last 10 years will be on open shelves in the library. As items age, they will be relegated to the underground storage facility. The University of Chicago has invested in a similar system."
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Australian Uni's Underground, Robot-Staffed Library

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  • Books? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hammeraxe (1635169) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @06:15PM (#42266187)

    What are these "books" you speak of?

    • Printouts. But I suppose for some classes of books you need to see the actual physical object, including whatever has been added since it was printed.

    • Re:Books? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by captaindomon (870655) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @06:37PM (#42266441)
      Out of around 130 million different books in the world, only about 20-25 million of them have been scanned. Also, a book and the content are different things. A rare 400-year old book has a lot of intrinsic value even if the text is available in digital format. So storing physical objects in a library will be with us for a long time.
    • by elynnia (815633)

      I'm sorry, the disregard for books in these responses is unbelievable.

      Sure, if one is studying engineering, mathematics or computer science one may question the necessity of having a massive collection of books in a library and wonder why it wouldn't be better to have just the latest data available online.

      However, as it happens, these aren't the only things one studies at university. If you are doing history, the social sciences or literature, your degree involves a lot of open-ended research that may take

      • by sd4f (1891894)
        As a student of UTS, it doesn't really live up to its name, it's like any of the other universities in australia, they do all the normal courses, it doesn't do anything particularly different to the other universities to really justify the "technology" name. With that said, i think the system is a white elephant, considering the amount of use it's going to get, and the preference for online materials by students; I don't think it's a good way to spend money. If anything, i think it's going to be a method to
      • by rioki (1328185)
        My experience with libraries seems to differ. Luckily I did not have to go though the shenanigans, since I studied information technology engineering; but my wife is into "modern" history. (modern == now - 500a) The way that works is, you log into the libraries site, either on a PC in the library or from home. You then search for books in the topic (and the search is crap), then you check the state of the book. If the book is not lent you write down all the numbers and locations of the books and then go get
  • Sometimes they like to slash and maim the books
    but
    Robots are our friends.

  • Come to UTS (Score:5, Funny)

    by SpazmodeusG (1334705) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @06:30PM (#42266373)

    Learn engineering! [i.qkme.me]

  • by Aaden42 (198257) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @06:38PM (#42266449) Homepage

    Why in Finagle's name wouldn't you just convert to digital and keep the originals warehoused in dry storage, sans the robot overlords? Much easier to search, more quickly available, less likelihood of unsuspecting librarians being selected for "testing"

    Oh right Copyright law is 40+ years behind technology. How silly of me

    • by prowler1 (458133)

      There is a simple reason for this. Once you buy the book, you own the book and the only cost you then have is the housing of the book.

      A large number of the books a university would need a digital copy of, you need to license said copy. This incurs a yearly fee and ends up costing a small fortune.

  • by rbprbp (2731083) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @06:50PM (#42266535) Homepage
    ... that the most interesting feature in library is discovery: finding related books just by looking at the nearby shelves? I will miss that when most libraries reach this degree of automation.
    • One of my favorite things about the library at the university where I did my undergrad was that the shelves where they sorted books that had been returned before placing them back where they went were out in the open. Any given day I could walk by and browse through a couple thousand books that had been returned that day or the day before--a snapshot of books on every topic that people thought were worth reading (or, at least, worth checking out).

      I think there's a lot of value in "transparent" libraries.

      • by Harik (4023)

        There's a lot behind this comment that is really important. Sure, you "can" do the same thing with an electronic view of recently returned books - but you have all sorts of crazy privacy implications. If you read on-site in a traditional library, you don't need a name associated with a book to browse the shelves and see what's related, you can anonymously put it in the returns without your identity ever being associated. And it's a lot more casual and discovery-oriented: A lot of times I would walk throu

    • Looking up a book, then browsing the ones next to it is great research strategy.

      To some extent you can gain a similar ability if the library catalog allows you to browse the titles "on the shelf" (in this case, of course, they wouldn't physically be next to it)... but it's still not the same as being able to pick up the next title, flip to the table of contents, and see if it's relevant. This problem isn't limited to automated systems... many large or special libraries require you to request books individua

    • The Bodleian Library in Oxford has operated a similar underground system for many years, although I think they use minions rather than robots to find the books. I always found it a rather empty and disappointing experience to be so close to so many books, but to only handle the particular one I had requested.

      The new library at EPFL in Switzerland is much better. They have a fancy building above ground, some of which houses books. But most of them are kept in stacks underground, so they're tightly packed
    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      "People who perused this book also perused..."

      • by Harik (4023)

        Self-reinforcing. Start with an empty 'related' database and a huge library of books. The first person browsing leaves a distinct fingerprint on the database, because the second person 'sees' the first's trail, and follows it. The joy of a traditional library is there is no path trod into the browsing experience, every discovery is fresh, no matter how many times it's been done before.

        To get an idea of how it works out in practice, check out the completely bonkers amazon reccomendations for super-low-t

  • by fatlotus (1434109)
    It's interesting that they're migrating so many of their books to the ASRS so soon. I went on the Mansueto Tour at the University of Chicago, and they plan to only use their robot for overflow. Their perspective is that their role is to preserve "traditional library experience," of which the new library is just a footnote.
  • The University of Chicago has already just done this [uchicago.edu].

  • Macquarie Uni - also in Sydney - completed a 70m new university library March 2012 with automated book retrieval. And just to get competitive, It's got heaps of space with whiteboards, projectors and even a million litres of water on the roof for aircon (five green star rating). NB I'm not a Macquarie staff but former student who goes to the library any chance I can get. http://youtu.be/_4If8xFSDgg [youtu.be]
  • I always wondered if placing hardback books vertically on a shelf was a bad idea in the long term, mainly as the covers are almost always longer than the pages, leaving a space between the actual pages and the shelf, placing great stress on the binding as the pages are essentially a cantilever beam.

    Of course, stacking books horizontally to take up the same amount of shelf space might be just as bad with the compressive stress on pages (ink) at the bottom of the pile. And just the act of removing the the

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