Robots won’t replace librarians, library officials say

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Though the Marriott Library is becoming more technologically advanced, machines will not replace workers and the modernization will actually save the library money, according to library officials.

The library is adding the Automated Retrieval Center (ARC), which will bring less-used books and materials to students.

But many workers will still be needed.

No workers will lose their jobs, but some of their duties may change to fit the new “user-friendly” library, said Joseph Harman, project manager for the Marriott Library.

Instead of having general librarians, there will be librarians with extensive knowledge in specific areas. There will also be more workers focused on helping students use computers.

The $4 million ARC system will save the library money in the long run, by cutting down on space requirements, Harman said.

“Every square foot of a library costs more than $200 to build,” Harman said. “You’re storing more books per square foot-it’s really high density.”

He added that the ARC should save the library almost double the amount it costs to install.

The ARC system will also allow the library to remain open, even while it is under construction.

“We can take a big part of the collection and put it in [ARC] so we can keep the library in operation while we’re doing the renovation,” Harman said.

When a student requests a book from a computer terminal, one of four cherry-picker robots will retrieve it.

“They don’t look like people,” Harman said. “They run on tracks and look like a fork lift.”

A railroad-like track will run between shelves. The metal robots, will ride on the tracks until they get to the shelf where a targeted book is located.

All books are stored in bins on the shelves.

The robot will pick up the entire bin and take it back to the service desk where a library worker will go through the bin to find the requested book.

When the student brings the book back, the robot will return the bin to its original location.

Funding for the ARC system is coming out of the $48 million that the Legislature gave to the U to help in the renovation.

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