Automated Retrieval System


I tried to get some pictures yesterday and I did a great job of getting pictures of people who were around the library yesterday. I also wanted to get a picture of the SCU Library’s new Automated Retrieval System. An ARS is a large building in which books are stored. There are no stories. The books are stored in bins and they are stacked on top of each other on shelves. Automatic cranes retrieve books as they are called in the library catalog.

I hadn’t seen this in action yet, so I went back there this week to see how it works. It’s actually quite amazing. The cranes zip through really quickly and grab the bin from it’s place, zoom it to the front, and then a student assistant picks the desired book from the bin. It all only takes about 30 seconds.

An interesting thing about it is that there is no rhyme or reason to the order in which the books are placed in the bins, as long as the computer knows where it is so that it can be retrieved. This got me to thinking about the usefulness of Call Numbers in the future. If things move toward this kind of retrieval system, Call Numbers, I believe, could be a thing of the past. They could serve a purpose, I supposed, as a browsing tool in the library catalog. But it’s kind of a clunky way of browsing books.

It’s kind of sad in a way. There is a lot of serendipity that goes on when one is browsing the books stacks. Books tend to jump out at you in ways that are not possible when you merely search the computer.

But at the same time, the new technology is very exciting and interesting.

Weird. I was going to blog about my last day at work but I went on about the ARS instead. Oh well. I’ll tell you about my day tommorrow.

5 thoughts on “Automated Retrieval System

  1. I wouldn’t worry too much about the call numbers. The reality the call numbers are a human construct for organizing the information. Since we haven’t been eliminated from the process, the numbers will still need to be there.

    As for serendipity, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been going through the library going down a row of books looking for the one I need only to find one that is infinitely more interesting that I didn’t know I needed. Sometimes its the title of a book, or it’s shape, something attracts you to it and curiosity makes you open it to find out what’s inside. I’m not sure how you can replace that effect with this kind of technology. Maybe a virtual bookshelf with other books around that one being shown. Also maybe as they all become electronic, you will be able to randomly jump to random sections of books, like you do with websites on most web rings. I’ve written entirely different papers based off of a book catching my eye, I would hate to lose that.


  2. The same exact thing happens to me, too! i’ve found some really interesting books that way. I know lots of people at SCU are bummed about the ARS because they won’t be able to browse like they did. There will be a book stacks, but not everything will be there.


  3. For all the loss, the ARS system solves a critical problem, brain-dead morons that put books in places they don’t belong because they are “done” with them. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve walked to the other end of my college’s library to reshelf a book that was on a shelf it didn’t belong. Or worse people that will disorganize an entire section taking books out and replacing other books where they don’t belong. Drives me nuts, the damn numbers are on the freaking cover!! Just put them back where they belong! (can you tell I’m the son of librarian?)


  4. Actually, you do have a good point..One of my first jobs was as a Searcher. I looked for missing books and had to come up with various ways the books might be misshelved. Kind of like a “book detective”. But if somebody just puts a book on the shelf willy nilly then all hope in finding it is almost lost.


  5. Which is why I would always at least on the reshelf cart if I found one that was in the wrong place. Of course, I think a lot of the issue comes from the fact that they make rules that you can reshelf your own books in some libraries. It encourages laziness and lack of concern about where the books end up. I guess the other choice is to close the library and reorganize every book in the place for a couple of weeks. Of course, putting into an ARS system effectively does that. Of course, in the future I’m hoping that you will go to the library and ask for a book and they will print you a copy of it. That will be really cool, then you can always get a copy of a book no matter what. That kind of idealistic thinking causes Neo-cons to hyperventilate, but knowledge should be free for everyone to get too. The technology is sitting on the shelf, we just have to have the will to use it.


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