At the core of the Hunt Library is the bookBot robotic book delivery system, which can store up to two million items in a climate-controlled environment and deliver any of them within five minutes of a click in the online catalog. Requiring 1/9 the space of conventional shelving, the bookBot helps transform this 21st-century library from a storage facility into a rich environment of learning and collaborative spaces.
While the technology underlying high-density automated shelving has been used in large-scale industries such as automotive manufacturing and textiles for many years, it is now becoming a transformational tool for the pioneering research libraries that are deploying it.
In the bookBot, books and other items are barcoded, sorted by size, and stored in over 18,000 bins. Each item is scanned whenever it is removed from and returned to the system, maximizing the available storage space and allowing the Libraries’ online catalog to track the location of all materials at all times. An accompanying Virtual Browse system brings serendipity into the 21st century by allowing users to see a virtual shelf of all items related in subject, including the growing number of electronic books in the collection. This view can be expanded beyond the Libraries’ collection to encompass the Triangle Research Libraries Network and other collections available for request and delivery.
The system is both fascinating to watch and easy to use. Within minutes of receiving a request, one of the bookBot’s robotic cranes retrieves the requested material and delivers it to an operator, who sends it on to the “Ask Us” center or to other library locations on campus via a rapid delivery service.
In addition to the materials in the bookBot, the Hunt Library offers selected collections on open shelving for browsing, including the most recent publications in engineering, computer science, and textiles (2007 to present), located in the Oval View Reading Lounge on the fourth floor. Here faculty and students will also find select print journals from publishers such as the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and seminal titles such as Science and Nature. On the second floor, open shelves in the Rain Garden Reading Lounge and Quiet Reading Room hold classic works in engineering, computer science, and textiles, core reference works in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, a science fiction browsing collection, and books published by NC State University faculty.