Let us continue our little tour of the libraries around the world with something a little bit different from what we have been showing you so far.
We are crossing the Atlantic ocean, off to University of Chicago, Illinois!
The Joa and Rika Mansueto Library, to call it by it’s official name, is unlike any other library you have seen before! Why ? Because it is totally automated! The students of the University of Chicago do not have to walk around some aisles to look for a particular book or to ask the librarian whether the said book is available or not.
How the automated librery works ?
Instead, the students can browse through the online catalogue of the Mansueto library to see if the book they are looking for is available, order it right away, and by the time they walk to the library the book will be waiting for them.
How is this possible you might ask? Well it all comes down to the library’s ingenious design.
The Mansueto library is like an Iceberg, you can merely see a third of it.
On the surface there are no aisles nor shelves. The whole space is dedicated to reading. Everything is happening beneath the surface.
The library has a storage vault buried 20 meters deep into the ground, consisting in 24 000 bins! Each of them containing up to 100 books. While most (if not all) libraries sort their books by subject or author. The Mansueto library sorts its books by size to optimize the space of their bins.
Every book is marked on the spine with a barcode that is scanned each time the book leaves or comes back to the library.
Meanwhile, five mechanical cranes move alongside the racks to find and lift the bin containing the book that has been ordered by a student to the surface. The student is notified by email when the book has been scanned. Finally when it is ready to be picked up.
While many will salute the technical prouesse of building an automated library, others will mourn the loss of their good old wooden shelves as well as the feeling of walking and browsing through the aisles. What do you think about the Mansueto automated library? Is it the result of a genius mind’s work ? Or is it too much of a change?