The James Hunt Library at North Carolina State University (pictures below) opened earlier this year, and, like many modern campus libraries, features a wealth of reading rooms and group-study rooms. To make space for all of this room for people without making the library enormous, it’s the space for books that got smaller—but not the number of books in the collection. How did they do it?
Enter bookBot—an automated, on-demand, robotic book-retrieval system that can access any book in the collection and deliver it to a patron in less than five minutes and do it in 1/9th the space of normal stacks.
This video gives the best overview:
As mentioned in the video, the library retains one of the key features of actually going into the stacks–randomly finding a relevant book on the same shelf as the one you are looking for. The Virtual Browse system shows not only the book you are searching for, but also allows you to take a book at other books that are shelved near it.
Combined, bookBot and Virtual Browse use relatively simple robot and a relatively simple piece of software to make an extraordinary change to what a library looks like and can be. By switching the primary volume of the library from housing books to hosting people, the Hunt library is a model for what a library in the 21st century can be.
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