SF State News {University Communications}

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Library 'robots' now operational

August 20, 2010 -- This summer, J. Paul Leonard Library faculty and staff gave members of the campus community a preview of the computerized crane system that will retrieve most books stored in the expanded and renovated Library when it is expected to reopen in early 2012.

Close up view of Library Automation System "robot" preparing to retrieve a bin of books

Close up view of Library Automation System "robot" preparing to retrieve a bin of books. Click on image to see the LRS "robots" in action, or go to: www.youtube.com/user/sfstatenews

The library retrieval system, or LRS, fills three floors of the Library's new west addition. It consists of huge cranes that glide horizontally and vertically to access a vast system of storage bins. Five double rows of bins reaching 36 feet high house 10 times more books onsite than open shelving could accommodate. It is estimated that most books will be retrieved and ready for the user in less time than it takes for a Library patron to walk to open stacks and retrieve a book.

"Library users should remember ," says University Librarian Deborah Masters, " that you don't need to be in the Library to request a book. From any computer, anywhere, at anytime you can access the online catalog, determine that the book is available, and make your request. " That online request cues the crane to retrieve the bin holding that book, and immediately delivers the bin to a crew of trained student assistants and Library staff. The book is removed by hand, and delivered to the Library's distribution desk for the patron -- all in about five to 10 minutes.

It took less than three months for Library staff and student assistants to move SF State's collection of more than 1 million books and other materials. Each item was cleaned, sorted by size, and then bar-code scanned for bin storage. In addition to efficiency and speed, the LRS's bar-coded scanning system promises to eliminate misshelving  that can occur with open stacks.

The LRS will be used to access most of the Library's collection. Two floors of open stacks will remain accessible directly to Library patrons. Open stacks will house recently acquired and frequently circulated items, as well as materials that faculty determine are best browsed in person -- such as art history volumes. "The open shelves will be fine-tuned on an ongoing basis," Masters said, "as we review demand and use patterns, and consult with both faculty and users."

The LRS is operational during renovations, but until the Library reopens, material may be picked up at the HSS building. Users should make requests through the online catalog and will be notified by e-mail when items are ready. Items are usually ready for pick up -- in HSS 102 -- within 24 hours, excluding weekends and holidays.

Renovations to the J. Paul Leonard Library are proceeding on schedule, said Simon Lam, associate vice president for Capital Planning, Design and Construction. The full complement of expansion, seismic upgrades and renovations is due to be completed early in spring semester 2012.

For more on the Library renovations, temporary service locations, and links to related sites, visit  the New Library web site at www.sfsu.edu/newlibrary/

To see the LRS in action, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hnAElubfIY

-- Ellen Griffin


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