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SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer  2004, Volume 4, Number 1.

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Valet BrowsingThe robotic crane that will soon retrieve books for library patrons and a close-up look inside one of the storage bins filled with books.

A new computerized Library Retrieval System (LRS) will be put in place during the second phase of the J. Paul Leonard Library expansion and renovation project. Here’s how it will work: Selected books and periodicals will be kept in bins on high-density shelving up to 40 feet high. Patrons looking for these books need not brush up on their climbing skills, however. They will simply go to any computer, access the library’s online catalog, type in their request, and pick up the item within minutes or when they next visit the library. The retrieval system’s robotic crane will do all the work. In response to requests, the crane picks up the appropriate bin and delivers it to a library employee, who retrieves the requested book or periodical and places it in a fast-moving cart on a track that leads straight to the check-out desk in as little as five minutes.

The LRS system offers new convenience to students and faculty on the go. Not only do patrons have access to materials from within the library, but "you will be able to go online from your home or campus office and request the book you need. The book will be waiting for you by the time you arrive at the library," says Darlene Tong, head of information, research and instructional services for the library. The LRS will also enable the library to provide a greater array of resources. Because shelving is condensed, the new library will be able to store up to 1.5 million books and bound periodicals on site, increasing the number of potential items in the collection by 300,000 volumes.

During the renovation of the existing building, virtually all of the library’s collections will be housed in the LRS. After the completion of the project, more than 400,000 of these books will be returned to the open stacks based on criteria developed by library faculty in consultation with the departments and programs they serve.

For collections not housed in open stacks, the online catalog serves as a "virtual shelf." By perusing a display of books in call number order and reviewing the information available on each book -- such as author, title, publisher, date, subject headings, and table of contents -- users can "browse the shelf" to identify the books they want to retrieve.

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