Library Storage High-Tech Robotic Shelving: This Automated Storage and Retrieval System Offers Nine or Ten Times the Storage Space as Standard Library Shelving

By AmRhein, Rick; Resetar, Donna | Computers in Libraries, November-December 2004 | Go to article overview

Library Storage High-Tech Robotic Shelving: This Automated Storage and Retrieval System Offers Nine or Ten Times the Storage Space as Standard Library Shelving


AmRhein, Rick, Resetar, Donna, Computers in Libraries


Valparaiso University is located in northwest Indiana, about an hour from downtown Chicago. With about 4,000 students, Valparaiso (Valpo) is primarily an undergraduate institution with professional schools in business, engineering, law, and nursing. While the law school has its own library, all other disciplines were always served through one main library located near the center of campus. Moellering Library was built in 1959 and expanded in 1969 to hold 266,000 volumes in 54,000 square feet. By the 1990s, the collection had grown past 350,000 volumes, and the need to also house computers and other technologies made it clear that Valpo needed a new library.

Back in the mid-'90s, Donna took part in the conceptual planning for a new facility. And by the time Rick arrived on campus in the summer of 1999, Valpo was anxious to begin detailed planning. While there was a clear need for more book space, the evolution of library services over the previous 4 decades demanded a new kind of facility that would meet a wide variety of needs throughout the campus community. So we were going to build a Center for Library and Information Resources nearly twice the size of Moellering that would house many more books while also providing computing centers, group study space, the campus writing center, a lecture hall, training classrooms, and community gathering space. We wanted to have open shelving space for approximately 300,000 volumes and high-density storage for another 300,000 volumes.

Initially, compact shelving seemed to be a logical choice for high-density storage, but we had concerns about it taking over most of the library in the future. Also, while the movability of compact shelving nearly doubles the capacity of standard library shelving, it is not particularly inviting for users. We needed to find an alternative high-density storage system so that we could make more creative use of space throughout the rest of the building. We also wanted to make sure that any storage solution would be located within the building rather than off-site. Since Rick had worked at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas during the planning for its new Lied Library, he was familiar with HK Systems and its Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS). This offered an excellent alternative for on-site, high-density storage at Valparaiso University, while offering as much as nine or ten times the storage space per square foot as standard library shelving.

Rick Explains the ASRS

An automated storage and retrieval system is a means by which a large quantity of books (or other materials) can be stored in a single room and can be easily accessed within seconds. A large rack system holds many 2-foot-by-4-foot steel bins. A crane in each aisle of the system retrieves and replaces the bins on demand.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Initially, books are scanned as they are placed in the bins, and a database keeps track of the location of each volume. Later, when an item is requested, a crane pulls the appropriate bin and delivers it to the designated service point. A staff member then picks the requested book out of the bin and scans it to update the book's location in the database. Since order doesn't matter (unless you want it to), when a book is returned and re-scanned, it can go back into any bin where there is space.

In our installation, we have 1,872 bins in two aisles that are 18 rows high and 26 columns long on each side of the aisle. This is all located within a space that's 30 feet wide, 80 feet long, and 30 feet high. The vast majority of our bins (1,456) are 14 inches deep, with 312 at 12 inches deep and 104 at 18 inches deep. The capacity of each bin varies based on the size of the items you place inside, but the total capacity our installation is designed for is 300,000 volumes.

Donna Explains How the Collection Was Prepared for Storage in the Bins

As assistant university librarian for access services, my duties include overseeing circulation, stack maintenance, and our integrated library system (from Innovative Interfaces, Inc. …

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