In 2010, Miller Nichols Library became the 18th academic library in North America to install an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) and the first in the region. Nicknamed, the Robot, it holds about 80 percent of the library’s collection, freeing up space in the library for student, researcher, and community use.
The retrieval system contains items that receive occasional or little use, but need to be kept easily accessible. Because the retrieval system has space for more than 15 years of growth, the library collection will have space to grow with the most current and heavily used items on the open shelves, and a valuable retrospective collection retained onsite.
Over 130,000 volumes remain on open shelving in the library. What is retained on these shelves are the newest and/or most frequently used materials. As users’ needs change, so too can the collection of browsable items, as contents easily can be rotated into or out of the Robot.
Online browsing is currently available in the Libraries’ catalog by clicking on the Library of Congress call number. The call number enables the shelving of the books by subject. The Libraries are working on enhancing this online browsing feature by adding additional content like book covers, summaries, and tables of contents.
The Libraries’ catalog provides a gateway to books and journals stored in the Robot. Requests for materials housed in the Robot can be made on any computer with internet access – even from home. Once a request is made, an automatic crane will locate the requested item and deliver it to a pick-up station where staff will hold the item until retrieved by the patron. The crane retrieval process takes about four minutes and can be viewed from the exterior of the building through a window on the entrance plaza.
By moving some collections into the Robot, shelving was able to be removed from other areas of the library to make more student-friendly spaces. Items in the Robot’s various-sized shelving bins comprise about one-seventh of the floor space used by conventional open-stacked shelving.
Speed and Convenience
The ease of retrieval makes these collections more accessible for students and researchers. The storage system uses a robotic crane to retrieve requested materials from racks to the check-out desk within minutes – faster than you could walk and retrieve the item youself! Since the materials are stored in the building and not at a remote depository like many other libraries, there is no 2-day wait for materials. You can pick them up almost immediately.
Steel storage bins protect materials from fire and light, and the temperature and humidity controls in the area help to preserve the condition of the materials housed inside.
Greater Holding Capability
We estimate that the Robot will accommodate an additional 400,000 items onsite. Thousands of volumes and other items currently housed off-site, such as the State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center–Kansas City and University Archives collections, can be accommodated in the new facility.
The Robot eliminates the need and cost for: leasing off-site storage facilities; moving items to and from storage site(s); and reinforcing existing ceilings and floors to accommodate more shelving. The Robot also reduces the cost per square foot of new construction dedicated to collections space.
Maximum Flexibility & Continued Growth
By incorporating the retrieval system into the building design, the library achieves the maximum capability to house, protect, and access library materials on site well into the future. The retrieval system is designed with advanced technological capabilities that can be upgraded and expanded.
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