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Robots Retrieve Your Books At U. Chicago's $81 Million Library

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the for-that-much-money-they-better dept.

Books 202

kkleiner writes "The University of Chicago's new $81 million Joe and Rika Mansueto Library is being referred to as the library of the future. You enter the library and find there are hardly any books, just a large reading room with computers. The library's 3.5 million books are stored inside 35,000 bins stacked within 50 foot tall racks in a massive 5-story chamber underneath the library. When you ask for a book an automated retrieval system involving huge, computer-activated robotic cranes finds the book you want, delivers it to the circulation desk, and eventually puts it back underground when you return it." The age of the personal-shopping library robot is getting closer and closer.

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202 comments

Hey, I have one of those too! (2)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 2 years ago | (#36233842)

It's called a Kindle...

Re:Hey, I have one of those too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36233962)

A Kindle and a Kobo here (bought and given, respectively). Not everyone has the means to afford devices like this however. While I love my Kindle, I also like the tactile feel of a good leather bound book while reading in front of my fireplace.

Then again, I still write with a fountain pen, so YMMV.

Get off my lawn, etc...

Re:Hey, I have one of those too! (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234036)

NONFREE
NONFREEDOM
DOH!

Re:Hey, I have one of those too! (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234258)

There's a good chance a lot of the 3.5 million books in this library are not available as eBooks and therefore a Kindle is not a perfect replacement yet. For personal use with readily available material, however, a Kindle is an awesome device.

Re:Hey, I have one of those too! (1)

muindaur (925372) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234442)

Along with the fact that not everyone can afford a kindle, or the price tag on some books. It's not like I can spend $100 on a book just for a college paper, or for research developing a solution for a comp sci project (like an assignment to create a web-app for medical research.) Then there are the many journal archives one might need access too that some places can't afford to scan.

Yes, the Kindle is awesome, but lacks the pass around features paper books have (it's a friend/family tradition with books) besides the other issues.

Re:Hey, I have one of those too! (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234292)

How much would it have cost to Digitize everything for the Kindle? Contract Google and reCAPTCHA and get everything digitized. It'd probably fit into a single 3.5" hard drive. Books really don't making sense in this situation. Especially spending 81M on a big storage unit. What happens when the water barrier fails and takes out the entire library?

Re:Hey, I have one of those too! (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234384)

This was my first reaction... the "library of the future" is already here, it's called the Internet.

Re:Hey, I have one of those too! (5, Insightful)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234700)

Does the Internet have a copy of "Proceedings and plans for the completion of the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail-Road, from Chicago to Oshkosh", published in 1859? (http://pi.lib.uchicago.edu/1001/cat/bib/3577896) No? Didn't think so. How about "Sturiella minor: a fossil plant showing structure from the Carboniferous of Illinois", a UChicago student thesis from 1924? (http://pi.lib.uchicago.edu/1001/cat/bib/4512895) No? Didn't think so.

If your response is "who would ever need to know that kinda crap?", you don't understand the first thing about academic research. If your response is "why not just digitize these and put them online?" then you'll be glad to know that they built a digitization lab as part of this new library to do exactly that. But that work takes time. Years.

The Internet is great, but some things aren't on the Internet. Some things are very very hard to put on the Internet, due to copyright issues, age issues, and manpower problems. The Internet, for all its glory, often actually *reduces* the variety of information available: have you noticed that when you Google something, the first hit is Wikipedia, and the rest of the page is people plagiarizing Wikipedia? It's crucial that information networks from the past be integrated into the network of the present, or we stand to lose our history.

For more on this, read "Rainbow's End" [amazon.com] by Vernor Vinge.

Re:Hey, I have one of those too! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36235260)

How about Yes, and Yes. The first "private" (anyone can get in, basically) torrent site I thought of has both. I won't list it here for obvious reasons, though, but I'll give you a hint, it's the #1 knowledge & education ebook site out there.

Big Deal (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36233852)

We have had one of those at Sonoma State University for about 10 years now.

Old News (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36233870)

This is not news at all, there are multiple of this same system all over the country and has been for a few years now. Even my crappy school in Nevada has had the same thing for almost 3 years now.

http://knowledgecenter.unr.edu/libraries/kc/about/mars.aspx

Re:Old News (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234144)

I love the "Excluded from inclusion in MARS are:" title, especially from a university. They probably mean the documents have been included in the exclusion list for MARS inclusion ?

Fortunately, the MARS mechanic robots can take advantage of the university level of altitude to fetch books at a high rate of speed.

Ambivalent (3, Insightful)

DirePickle (796986) | more than 2 years ago | (#36233892)

Robots are cool.

Wandering the stacks and reading random books is fun.

Going to the location of a book and looking at the books around it for other options is a necessity.

Re:Ambivalent (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234084)

That's actually a function of the skill of the librarian. You're depending on the cataloging system to ensure that similar books end up next to each other on the same shelf.

If you had a list of books (say electronic editions or scanned) and if you could order them in the same way that they are ordered on the library shelf, then you could browse a book's neighbourhood just the same.

alot of books are cataloged by a hive mind (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36235476)

nowdays you can predownload cataloging data partially filled out

Re:Ambivalent (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234164)

It could in theory be duplicated online.

Re:Ambivalent (2)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234228)

Robots are cool.
Wandering the stacks and reading random books is fun.
Going to the location of a book and looking at the books around it for other options is a necessity.

What we need is to combine these options. -Riding- the robot into the stacks and perusing! Especially if the robot were shaped like ponies!

Re:Ambivalent (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234534)

Setting up physical stacks so you can browse through them is a hardware solution to a software problem. Your average Slashdot reader could easily modify a library search engine so when you click on a book, it shows you a sidebar containing several books a semi-random distance away in Library of Congress number.

Great for retrieving a specific book (5, Insightful)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 2 years ago | (#36233896)

But what I enjoy about say, going to one of the many libraries that my school operates - is having a list of a few books I want to check out, and browsing around where those books are found, finding additional books on the subject. This helps me find further research sources. I'm not sure how common that would be in all programs, but in History, it's quite a bit beneficial, or at least it has been for me...

Re:Great for retrieving a specific book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36233946)

I think it is beneficial in any discipline. I did the same as a student of computer science and math.

Re:Great for retrieving a specific book (1)

Hermanas (1665329) | more than 2 years ago | (#36233984)

I'm sure the library will have an electronic directory (with some sort of suggestion system) exactly for that reason, seeing as how they already have the database needed to run the robots.

But I do agree, browsing books on the shelf often leads to discovery of new books on the subject in my field too.

Re:Great for retrieving a specific book (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36234588)

I'm sure the library will have an electronic directory

Sounds nice in theory, but unfortunately all of the electronic directories I've ever encountered suck when compared to browsing.

The problem is "Googilization". Organization is being dumped for search. Think of Gmail's approach to email. Instead of having an externally imposed, manual curation of hierarchical order, people are increasingly building everything to be a flat database where the interface is searching for specific information. You search "American Revolutionary War", and all books which mention/refer to/have the phrase "American Revolutionary War" pop up. The database vomits up all the results it has, including "Quilting during the American Revolution", but then misses the fact that some other book is about the "American War of Independence". Whereas a decent librarian would put all the quilting books together, and then all the American History books together, etc. Not only don't most modern electronic directories have that curation, they supplier will tell you you're silly for even wanting it. "You don't need this thing that you've relied on for years" - somehow you were delusional when you've found it useful in the past. (Or maybe they'll have that info in the form of LC or Dewey Decimal numbering, but will make it a bear to jump through all the hoops to actually *use* it.)

Then the interfaces to library catalogs tend to be crap too. I have no clue how those databases and search engines are structured, but it *always* takes five-ten seconds of nothing happening to get the next page of results (and they always think 10 results per page is just fine, and can't fathom someone wanting more). And then five-ten seconds to look at the individual book's page (because there's precious little info on the main result page). I find that skimming the books on the shelf is much quicker and more satisfying than sifting through the results of electronic directory search.

That's not to say that an electronic interface *couldn't* be as good or better than a physical shelf interface. It's just that it'd take programers who bother to accommodate alternate ways of approaching the catalog, and don't just shove a half-assed Google-like interface on top while poo-pooing people who want something different, saying that they don't really need what they want. -- So, yeah, it'll never happen.

 

Re:Great for retrieving a specific book (2)

Fnordulicious (85996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36235264)

> Then the interfaces to library catalogs tend to be crap too.

This is mostly because the world of university-level library management systems (a.k.a. integrated library systems) is heavily dominated by Voyager which was from Endeavor Information Systems and now is in the hands of the Ex Libris Group. There are a number of open source alternatives, but you can't seriously expect a big institution to use anything that doesn't require a huge contract for installation and support.

Re:Great for retrieving a specific book (3, Insightful)

fotoguzzi (230256) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234204)

Some libraries have closed stacks and offsite storage, so perusing the entire collection is already impossible in some cases.

Re:Great for retrieving a specific book (2)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234308)

My university library has placed some (and only some) books in a closed stack while larger facilities are being built, and it's apologizing profusely for the inconvenience. Closed stacks are not seen a desirable longterm situation in these parts.

Re:Great for retrieving a specific book (3, Interesting)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234528)

Yup. Nothing like taking a book off the shelf, flipping through a few pages, putting it back, taking it off the shelf, flipping through a few pages, discovering something you want to read more about, and adding it to the back-breaking pile you have on the nearest table.

Re:Great for retrieving a specific book (1)

rpillala (583965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234584)

The library online catalog where I live has a feature called "search nearby on the shelf" that shows you the books around your search result. If this kind of data is already being indexed, it seems like a simple matter to make a virtual representation of the shelf that you can browse with a mouse or a touch interface. It's not the same as being there but it can be approximated.

Re:Great for retrieving a specific book (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#36235480)

The library online catalog where I live has a feature called "search nearby on the shelf" that shows you the books around your search result. If this kind of data is already being indexed, it seems like a simple matter to make a virtual representation of the shelf that you can browse with a mouse or a touch interface. It's not the same as being there but it can be approximated.

It may be approximated, but it's a poor approximation.

The strength of being able to browse nearby books isn't just looking at the titles, but in being able to pick one up and flip through it and see if it's interesting. It's not quite the same if you see an interesting title, then have to wait 10 minutes for the robot to retrieve it for you.

Since they say each book bin holds around 100 titles, they could simulate this by putting the books into LC classification order in the book bin and letting you browse the whole bin.

Re:Great for retrieving a specific book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36234732)

No kidding. I was just about to say the same thing for the sciences. This is the death of shelf browsing unless they build in some kind of additional "next book on the shelf" interface. I suppose we could just tell the bots "and give me the next 20 books on either side of this one", but I'm guessing it's going to be a lot slower than the conventional approach.

Re:Great for retrieving a specific book (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36235132)

The books in the robot aren't going to be the ones you want to browse on the shelves--they are the endless bound serials, government financial statistics, etc. Moving them makes room to browse the stuff you want in the main library stacks.

And this is why tuition rates are out of control.. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36233926)

It is very cool, but come on! People are struggling to afford college for their kids, and universities waste money like this?! Sorry, we have to raise tuition another 5%, we have to pay off this robotic library. And people complain about the oil companies...

Re:And this is why tuition rates are out of contro (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36234014)

Tuition rates are out of control because, for some reason, everyone in the US suddenly needs to go to college. Its a marketing ploy, and its working like a charm.

Re:And this is why tuition rates are out of contro (0)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234126)

Hint: Student loans are 1) guaranteed by the government, and 2) securitized. Sound familiar?

Re:And this is why tuition rates are out of contro (0)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36235086)

Quick! Everyone get a student loan, and we'll avoid the S&L bailout of the 80s!

Re:And this is why tuition rates are out of contro (4, Informative)

sackvillian (1476885) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234046)

The library cost a hefty $81 million, but the alternative was expanding the old library's capacity - and that was estimated at $67 million. So for $14 million, the university gets a brand new library with all the prestige and sex appeal of this new, high-tech approach with lower operating costs to boot. And anyway, the library's namesakes donated $25million, an amount that was probably increased by the prospect of the donator's getting to slap their name all over this exciting new building. What I'm saying is that this was a no-brainer for the university in terms of cost/benefit.

Now, whether you want to trade a building full of beautiful old books which you can peruse at your own convenience, and staffed with generally knowledgeable bibliophiles, for a mechanized building with 5-minute delay times on book requests and far fewer human employees... that's not so straightforward I hope.

Re:And this is why tuition rates are out of contro (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234134)

yea I go to the library to wander around and get lost a while, but when I was in college that was the last thing I wanted cause I needed material NOW!!!

so I guess it depends on the function of the library, since yea this was a good deal and yea there was a hefty donation I will not go into how Illinois is broke, has a sky high poverty level, and if you find a town tween hours of cornfeilds its 3 farmers doing a circle jerk, and admit it was a good buy for a university

as a public place of knowledge and literature its a total failure, as discovery is half the fun when you are not forced to do a scavenger hunt on a deadline

Re:And this is why tuition rates are out of contro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36234176)

Admittedly, it's not like I have the time (nor really care) to do a cost benefit analysis for the project. The entire thing just seems a bit bloated. University of Chicago is a private institution and they can spend their money however they wish. There will be a point though where the parents/students of the school will look at that library and consider that their money isn't going to a quality education, but pure waste. That "extra" $14 million ould definitely save the parent/student more than a few pennies off tuition over 25 years.

Re:And this is why tuition rates are out of contro (5, Informative)

toppavak (943659) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234348)

Indeed the long run the robotic library will be cheaper. My alma mater started construction on one [ncsu.edu] just before I graduated and I heard a librarian talking about the new design. Robotic libraries allow a higher packing density (more books per cubic meter), save on climate control (no need to compensate for opening / closing doors, it's underground so well insulated, no windows), require far fewer lights (robots can work in the dark), reduce the number of employees needed to staff the place (a + or - depending on your point of view) among many other long-term cost-savings.

Re:And this is why tuition rates are out of contro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36234988)

You can get higher packing density by having sliding shelves like we do at Emory (4-6 shelves effectively have a single aisle at a time and the shelves slide to provide access to the desired aisle). That said, one of the greatest advantages of the UChicago system is avoiding improperly shelved books - if a book is used and put back in the wrong place, it is nearly impossible to find in a library of millions of volumes whereas with robotic retrieval system will avoid this. The downside however is that you don't see related books anymore like you would when searching in the stacks yourself. Searching for a Graph Theory or Civil War book might take you past a book that fits your needs even better than the one you were initially looking for.

Re:And this is why tuition rates are out of contro (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 3 years ago | (#36235490)

True, although you could always design a nice "virtual bookshelf" type of interface for browsing titles in software. In fact, most library catalog search engines will show "other titles on the same shelf" by default. For example see this entry for Dune [ncsu.edu] and click on "Browse shelf" to the right of the page.

Re:And this is why tuition rates are out of contro (-1, Troll)

Vegeta99 (219501) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234388)

Uh, hi there. Why can't the kids pay for their own college, like I just finished doing?

Maybe they wouldn't be such worthless little shits if they had to. And I'm in the position to call them worthless little shits. I had to inspect and repair their living quarters and make sure they didn't kill eachother or themselves with drugs/alcohol/failure to cook right all year.

Re:And this is why tuition rates are out of contro (2)

Princeofcups (150855) | more than 3 years ago | (#36235172)

It is very cool, but come on! People are struggling to afford college for their kids, and universities waste money like this?! Sorry, we have to raise tuition another 5%, we have to pay off this robotic library. And people complain about the oil companies...

You have got to be kidding. This is exactly what Universities should be doing. Finding ways to preserve knowledge and make it available to whomever wants it. Until everything is digitized, this is a perfect way to make those books available in an as efficient a way possible. The students at the U of C are not about getting good grades and passing courses to get good jobs. They are about discovering and creating and investigating things that no one else has thought of yet. It's a research institution, not a tech school. And I wish we had more like it.

Utah Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36233930)

We have the same thing at the University of Utah. We've had it for a couple of years now.

Removes more than it adds (2)

oursland (1898514) | more than 2 years ago | (#36233940)

This system caters to the individual who knows exactly which book they want, but what about us who like to have an idea, go to the section and browse around? I have frequently gone to the library with a vague idea of what I'm looking for and leaving with books for that topic, related topics and often just something that caught my eye. This "progress" undermines a lot of the value that a library presents.

Besides, if I know exactly what I want, I can use my computer and Amazon to get most things without being inconvenienced with leaving my home or office.

Re:Removes more than it adds (1)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234182)

So paper has better search than bits? Not on the planet I'm living on.

Re:Removes more than it adds (1)

oursland (1898514) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234286)

Not all books are for factual information storage and transfer. Search is great for information retrieval, but doesn't convey a story.

Re:Removes more than it adds (1)

CycleMan (638982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234360)

Personally, I love electronic search engines for the ability to get me exactly to exactly what I want. But until all books in libraries are full-digital and full-searchable, I like the browse feature. The Dewey Decimal system means that when I get interested in a subject because of one book, I can find similar books to expand my understanding. So when I know exactly what I want, bits are great. When I know sortof what I want, then the library is great. It also helps that I am cheap and when I don't know exactly what I want, I am not a perfectionist, so the library's limited options are easier for me to select from than the nearly unlimited set at Alibris.

Re:Removes more than it adds (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234758)

When you are wandering around in a library looking at random books in the same section.. yes, it can be a better search.

You should try it sometime.

Re:Removes more than it adds (1)

nthwaver (1019400) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234868)

So paper has better search than bits? Not on the planet I'm living on.

Good grief, knowledge and education are not all about the efficiency of search algorithms. A luddite dystopian scifi novel called, they want their villain back.

Re:Removes more than it adds (4, Insightful)

Haffner (1349071) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234332)

As a University of Chicago student, something that I think many people won't take into consideration here is how the library is geared toward the student body. The majority of students use the library as a place to work, rather than a place to get books. And honestly, as someone who does a fair amount of (economic) research, I don't even go to the library until I know what book I'm going to get (I have access to the online library catalog). I think most students view the new library as a cool new place to do work, rather than another place to find books at.

Re:Removes more than it adds (1)

oursland (1898514) | more than 3 years ago | (#36235236)

I recently graduated and I understand where you are coming from, but I disagree. I would often study at the library, but I also loved to browse around in sections that interested me. Without the ability to do so, I wouldn't have been exposed to topics related of my interests that would have been otherwise unknown to me.

A few days ago there was the posting about how customized searches actually restrict people to information bubbles, rather than exposing them to new information. It seems that now even libraries, a place of literal tomes of knowledge, are now becoming places that confine persons to pillars of information instead of exposing them to a broad spectrum of ideas.

Re:Removes more than it adds (3, Interesting)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234738)

Keep in mind, this is not really a book library. UChicago says it will "primarily house materials like serials, periodicals, and other materials that are already online, as well as rare and fragile materials that should not be kept on open shelves"

Which is to say, stuff you wouldn't go browsing for anyway.

Re:Removes more than it adds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36234986)

Dickheads like you are the reason I can never find that specific book I need because dickheads like you always check out books you don't need.

Good riddance.

Dickhead.

Crappy time to be a librarian (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 2 years ago | (#36233944)

Becoming a librarian has been a pretty crappy career path for some time, involving long education to the M.Sc level only to receive poverty-level wages in many places. Now with mechanical systems, there's ever fewer job opportunities. The workforce at my university library has been heavily reduced in recent years.

Re:Crappy time to be a librarian (1)

greatcelerystalk (981442) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234096)

It has been a crappy time to be a librarian for the last ten years, at least. The projected wave of retirement among librarians never happened, at least not in the U.S. However, there are a lot of other M.Sc-level fields in the States are paid about the same. As a Residence Life Coordinator I made about what a starting librarian makes, and maybe 10k a year (around 40K) more when I moved into institutional research. Should've become a biologist

Re:Crappy time to be a librarian (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234154)

my experience with them at university level is glorified terminal operator and generally useless otherwise, in a public library it becomes a different story as they perform invaluable services to their community

Re:Crappy time to be a librarian (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234310)

Well, there's fully accredited librarians and then the pages who do the actual grunt work of checking in/checking out/shelving/straightening/etc. I used to do page work and it was great fun. Didn't expect it to be rendered obsolete by machines so soon, although how many libraries out of the total are actually employing this kind of tech?

Agree that it's great to just peruse the collection in person instead of selecting things from a monitor, too.

cry me a river (0)

arcite (661011) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234188)

Chimney sweeps and horse shoe men have it even worse!

Re:cry me a river (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234284)

I knew someone was going to post this.

Look, even if you see this as a sign of technology, you can still commiserate a bit with people who have dedicated years to study only to find job opportunities are no longer there. You can also ponder if technological progress has meant there are less and less job opportunities. People have ever fewer jobs to retrain for. At some point robots might be doing the bulk of the work, and what's left is outsourced.

Crappy time to be a commentator. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36234846)

Maybe the responses you're getting are because most people only think of librarians as glorified book shelvers. Those who know better aren't the one's cruising slashdot. Those who know an E-reader isn't a substitute for a librarian also aren't cruising slashdot. That leaves the anti-establishment, if I keep calling everything "buggy whip" people will think I'm cool.

IT'S LIKE A FAX MACHINE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36234030)

It's soooo 1980s' there. Robots (FAX) getting books (hardcopy). Way to go Chicago U!

What happens when they are all replaced by e-books (1)

spads (1095039) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234054)

in about 3 years? Seems a bit ill-conceived.

can't browse? (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234064)

One of the benefits of sorted shelves are that you might find something you weren't looking for, but is related to what you were looking for. If I don't know which book is the best book on a subject, I'll just pick one and find it on the shelf, and look at the books near it on the shelf for something that looks appropriate to my level. I don't see how this is possible with a robot system.

Re:can't browse? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234512)

How do you choose a book on e.g. Amazon? Do you need to know the exact name of the book?

There are computers there. Just have a simple web interface that lets you browse books by genre, topic, similar to others, authors, etc.

Seriosuly? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234100)

There is no future in paper books.

Re:Seriosuly? (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36235200)

Exactly. "Digitize" was the tag I added (well, not capitalized; some systems are not robust).

How is this news? (2)

Bugs42 (788576) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234106)

My alma mater (California State University, Northridge) has had one of these for over 15 years (http://library.csun.edu/About/ASRS). Sure it's cool, but why do we care? It's nothing new or groundbreaking.

Re:How is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36234246)

CSU Long Beach has had this for a few years also. And to the people complaining about the cost of a robotic system, its more expensive to build and maintain another library building. This saves money in the long run.

Temptation (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234114)

It is tempting to chalk this down to colossal stupidity and cluelessness, but that would be a mistake. Such a library can only have been designed by people who never go to libraries. However, as with most governmental or institutional actions that seem carried out by imbeciles, corruption is a far better explanation. Instead of allowing users to browse the stacks directly, examining book after book with related (or even serendipitously unrelated) information, you can now only get the exact book you asked for and will likely have to do it again and again with needless waiting and hit or miss results. This is something that should have been specifically prevented in the design, but then far less than $81 million would have changed hands. This backward and gratuitous use of completely inappropriate, overly elaborate and enormously expensive technology was done not for library users, but by the designers and builders to scam the customer.

All that glitters is not gold.

Re:Temptation (1)

rrkelleycsprof (2124982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234318)

This type of storage system makes perfect sense while we are in transition from paper to e-books. Sure, you can buy new e-books on Amazon, but what about those esoteric, academic books. They are not yet priority for scanning projects, but they still might have value for research. If the day comes that all the paper books are purged from the library and replaced with e-book equivalents, this building can be used to store other stuff. Still, funny this is considered news, we have this at our university for 5 or 6 years.

Re:Temptation (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234530)

Then why do online book stores have so much success, if they suffer from the exact same problem?

Re:Temptation (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234562)

On the other hand, you can "browse" the catalog of currently-checked-in items from your iPhone on the subway, order those you need, and pick them up within seconds of reaching the library.

Or, you can spend hours going from shelf to shelf finding that things you need weren't re-shelved, if they were checked in, if they weren't subsequently stolen from the stacks.

Re:Temptation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36235054)

The functionality of libraries is changing - more and more they are becoming re-purposed as study places, reading rooms, and group meeting spaces rather than a place to find books. This is particularly true for undergraduate utilization. Rare and old books are generally not in circulation anyway, so the books with reduced access are those that will largely be moved toward digital access in the next 20-30 years (standard texts that are available at most research libraries).

No more sex in the Stacks (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234128)

College just isn't the same anymore. ;-)

Old news! (1)

SixitesChild (1849904) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234130)

This sort of automated book retrieval system has been commonplace for years. The University of British Columbia installed such a system perhaps a decade ago ... and it works beautifully.

I am completely unimpressed... (0)

tlambert (566799) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234150)

I am completely unimpressed with any library where I can not browse books.

Having books suggested to me by some algorithm that's been training itself to show me things similar to things I've seen before is not at all the same.

Neither is giving me random crap because I've expressed a distaste for homogenized crap; as I told the designers of the iPod Shuffle the first three times I suggested that they had a perfectly usable UI feedback mechanism for representing menus in the devices audio output: Random Is Not A Feature.

This goes for browsing them by either topically due to horizontal shelf locality, or because of other physical adjacency (above/below/opposite self), or because of route locality (I went down the wrong row/headed to the right row through another, otherwise unrelated, section).

FWIW: I also hate electronic books.

-- Terry

Interesting Concept (1)

Ancantus (1926920) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234216)

I like the overall idea, however according to the video, it seems like you still require librarians to sort through a bin of 100 books for the book you requested. I know that this is probably the first automated library of this scale, but if your going to spend the 81 million, you might as well make it totally automated without human interaction.

On a positive note, the library really does look like a library from the future. I would love to go there and read books on my eReader.

Why? (1)

TheChromaticOrb (931032) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234230)

We're a few years away from having e-paper that feels like a book and can hold as many as you need for a couple of weeks. Why does this library need to store more physical copies of printed books? When all is set and done they'll be left with maintaining a useless robot...

I went to this library (1)

Veramocor (262800) | more than 2 years ago | (#36234262)

I went to the Arcada section of the library and there was a guy laying shot and bleeding on the ground. I went to help him and he said "Astral body".

Anyway I had the computer retrieve the "astral body" cartridge. Stupid library didn't have anywhere to play the thing though.

Choo Choo Ch'Boogie (1)

JackSpratts (660957) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234350)

You reach your destination, but alas & alack

You need some compensation to get back in the black

You take the morning paper from the top of the stack

And read the situation from the front to the back

The only job that's open needs a man with a knack

So put it right back in the rack, Jack

Amen. Nothing beats perusing physical media.

Re:Choo Choo Ch'Boogie (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234498)

Nothing beats perusing physical media.

As someone who's spent a lifetime in books, much of it spent in the University of Chicago's Regenstein as a matter of fact, I used to be a firm believer in the supremacy of physical books.

My mother-in-law sent me a very nice eBook reader, and little by little I've really come to appreciate it. I can even take eBooks out of the public library.

It's no good for musical scores, and I can't read it in bed with the lights low so I don't disturb my wife (eInk is not backlit), but I was shocked at how quickly the whole electronic reader thing became invisible to me and all I saw in front of me was the book. I've actually reached up to turn a page more than once before realizing all I had to do was thumb a little button.

At less than $100 (I have a nook and my daughter has a Kobo which she bought for $69 at a Borders that was closing.

I am extremely uncomfortable with the notion that eBooks will put my local bookseller out of business though. His recommendations are valued by me and he has never failed to get me those hard-to-find items I occasionally want. But I get the feeling the big chains are more of a danger to his business than eBooks. Many people will still prefer handling real books. I won't miss Borders and Barnes and Noble and other huge chains though.

The library of the future . . . (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234364)

The library of the future is . . . the library of the past. Isn't this just the "closed stacks" system? Except with robots? And no hanky-panky in dimly-lit floor 2.5 East?

Re:The library of the future . . . (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36235216)

Haha, yes, I had sex in a library more than the statute of limitations ago.

Sounds neat, but... (1)

DSS11Q13 (1853164) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234368)

I'm am both a graduate student and circulation librarian at Harvard, the biggest library system on the planet. While I can see the benefit of not having to run around such a massive library, especially the torturous process of reshelving returns, one of the benefits of libraries this huge would disappear. One of the great things about humongous libraries is that when you go to get your book, you can look at the other stuff on the same shelf. You'll often find a bunch of other relevant stuff, perhaps even more relevant than the book you came to get. It sounds like this robotic system would totally eliminate this.

Re:Sounds neat, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36235170)

Sounds like the next generation version should be modified to return a bin analogous to a shelf/set of shelves. That way you get most of the best of both - near immediate access while being able to browse related books.

1984 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36234376)

What a great way to track what you read, for finding subersives and for the university to sell to marketing companies who can zero in on what you read to help market crap to you that you don't want, but might be susceptible to purchase with well trained psychological profile based marketers. That database they're gonna amass is going to be hella valuable.

Really? (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234380)

What are my books doing at U. Chicago's library?

Astounding (1)

epine (68316) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234386)

I bet you won't find it predicted in Astounding back in the 1940s that we'd have robotic fetchers by the year 2010.

Somebody in Chicago invented time travel back in 1940, zipped 70 years forward to see how humans and AI were getting along, saw the library, returned to the time of origin, then destroyed the machine, since the future was too sad to contemplate.

the library of the future (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234416)

Will also offer *free* electronic copies of ALL their books, to go along with the paper ones.

Re:the library of the future (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234586)

Will be installed in your head at birth, and updated either on a schedule or manually, as you desire.

Unless all available storage and bandwidth are taken up with virus definitions, that is.

Here's a video of the system in action (1)

ziani (255157) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234516)

At the University of British Columbia, Canada.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gruenelf113/3657589909/

$81 Million uncredited (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36234608)

I think Joe and Rika Mansueto are going to be upset when they rename it to University of Chicago's Rube Goldberg Library.

Browsing? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36234650)

This may be a good system if the desired book is known beforehand, but how does a person know what book he wants?

Usually, the tactic employed is called browsing. A person enters a library and proceeds to leaf through many volumes of a given subject until a suitable title (or titles) is found. Needless to say, this system would obviate the whole idea of browsing and make the whole library experience rather pointless.

The ability to freely browsing applies to virtually all shopping ventures and it applies to scholarship as well. Eliminating this ability for the sake of technical expediency is a ridiculous move.

In 1950's Amerika... (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 3 years ago | (#36234860)

Books bring robots to YOU!

Main branch of the New York Public Library (1)

StandardDeviant (122674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36235206)

The main branch of the NYPL uses the same system, albeit more floors that aren't as tall, and human workers handle pick and place.

An original illustration here, sorry for the ugly url: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_PotguXM3PJk/TKh0YeRyQMI/AAAAAAAAF_c/WiOrMXEWdQc/s1600/nyplstacks.jpeg [blogspot.com]

How about spending $81m scanning books ... (1)

guanxi (216397) | more than 3 years ago | (#36235258)

... so I can retrieve them, as well as search, copy (!), and do everything else I can do with data on a computer, from anywhere.

Not unique (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36235278)

This is hardly unique. Macquarie University's (Sydney, Australia) new library uses this system also. For a more complete list:

http://www.automatedlibrarysystems.com/our-successes.cfm

The end of browsing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36235298)

Pretty much the only reason I'll go to a library for research rather than the web or journals is to browse: find where the books on subject x are, flip through a few or a few dozen, scan indexes and sample writing style until I find a good book on whatever I'm looking for. So, cool as this system undoubtedly is, it pretty much negates the benefits of libraries for me.

Death of the service industry? (2)

grapeape (137008) | more than 3 years ago | (#36235492)

When manufacturing jobs started disappearing the comments from many were that everything was ok and that service related jobs would take their place, now the service related jobs seem to be going away too (McDonalds last week announced it was replacing cashiers with touch screen kiosks in 40,000 restaurants). What happens now? While I like progress and advancement in technology, it just doesn't seem to be very well thought out, if you eliminate jobs in the name of efficiency eventually you also end up eliminating a sizable portion of the customer base. You can have 100% efficiency but if there is no one left who can afford to buy what your selling your business is going to fail.

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