I’m confused about how the whole robot retrieval system will work at the new library. Will patrons be unable to stroll the shelves and browse through books?
When the new Temple University Library opens in 2018 it will contain print books. Lots of books. The number of books will be about equivalent to what is currently contained in the Paley Library. The majority of the books will be stored in a robotic retrieval system. The quick answer to your question is yes. There will be books on shelves. Patrons will be able to stroll and browse in what will be a smaller physical collection of books than now found in Paley Library.
The new library will have a robotic storage and retrieval system that is referred to as an Automated and Storage Retrieval System (ASRS). Some of your confusion can be eliminated by familiarizing yourself with the ASRS, which you can do by watching this video or possibly this one. Either one will give you a better sense of what the ASRS does. It is almost becoming the norm for any new academic library building to take advantage of ASRS technology. This is because an ASRS allows for high-density storage so that the per volume cost of storing a book is as much as one-fourth of the cost of stack storage. Even the new library and learning commons being built at the much smaller Marywood University includes an ASRS.
Why are 21st-century library buildings incorporating the ASRS? It is a matter of efficient space utilization – and thinking ahead about how people will use research libraries 20, 30, 50 years and beyond into the future. Instead of having 29 miles of shelving and two entire floors devoted to book stacks as the current Paley Library does, the new Temple University Library will feature only one floor dedicated to open book stacks. That means a far greater amount of floor space may be devoted to to an environment where students, faculty and librarians can engage with each other for learning and research.
The new building will feature great resources such as the new Center for Learning and Student Success, a faculty suite for digital research and visualization lab, over 40 hi-tech study rooms for students, four instruction rooms, student-librarian consultation rooms, an innovation center, a dedicated reading/quiet room, a one-stop service zone, much improved spaces for events, a 24/7 cafe, an expanded Special Collections and Research Center and much improved display space. The only way to achieve all these enhancements is to shift floor space currently dedicated to book stacks to new people space.
While the number of books on stacks will be less than what Paley now offers, some 200,000 titles will still be available in open stacks for browsing. We are currently performing a collection analysis to identify the sections of our collection that are most sought after for browsing, such as the arts, architecture, music, literature and others. Disciplines such as business and technology, where books are less sought after, are primary candidates for the ASRS.
At Temple University Libraries we understand the value of book browsing for the exploration and discovery of new knowledge. As much as possible we will seek to continue the tradition of serendipitous discovery in our collections. Over the next two years we will also be exploring new technology, already being tested at other libraries, that offer a much improved library catalog search experience that brings the feel and power of book browsing to the computer screen. Our technology team will be working to develop an integrated shelf browsing app that will bring together all our holdings in single virtual shelf environment. As the new library project evolves we will be sharing more information about the building with the Temple University community. Look for more to come in 2016.