The most advanced library in Australia was recently opened at Macquarie University in Sydney.
The $97 million project incorporates a host of architectural and technology initiatives, including Australia’s first Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) for handling books.
The appropriately named ARC (Automated Retrieval Collection) has the capacity to store up to 1.8 million books in less than a seventh of the floorspace required by conventional shelving. The library can also provide hands-on access to up to 500,000 items that are in higher demand.
This capacity to store up to 2.3 million titles enables the University to house its entire collection – previously split between sites – for the first time.
And with its current inventory of 1.3 million books in the ARC, and 400,000 on shelving, the library is well placed to cope with title growth for many years to come.
Delivering a new standard of service
Due to the space-efficiency of the ARC, the new library is about the same size as its predecessor, yet provides three times as much study space and associated facilities.
"We are all very proud of our new library, but the most exciting thing is the improved service we can now offer to our students," said University Librarian, Maxine Brodie.
"Students can now simply browse our online catalogue of titles, both electronic and print. If the item is located in the ARC, then the student simply places an online request for it, and it will be waiting for them by the time they make their way to the pick up station.
"Based on overseas experience with automated library storage and retrieval systems, we expect the easy, convenient access the ARC provides will actually increase book lending rates over time," added Brodie.
About 150 retrievals are being made from the ARC every day.
Automating book storage and handling
The ARC is housed within an environmentally controlled 1,000 square metre vault about four floors high.
Books are stored in quantities of up to 100 in steel bins, providing optimum long-term storage conditions. Four different height bins are used within the system to accommodate small to large publications. Prior to the books being put away in the bins, they were cleaned and their details logged in the ARC’s location control system.
Integrated by logistics systems supplier Dematic, the ARC uses four stacker cranes to automatically handle the steel bins in and out of their 17,000+ locations at rates of up to 160 per hour.
When a book is required, the steel bin containing the book is automatically retrieved by one of the four stacker cranes, and delivered to a library staff member within a couple of minutes.
Dematic’s Manager Direct & Wholesale, Darren Rawlinson, said implementing the ASRS at Macquarie University had been a pleasant change from working in warehouses and distribution centres.
"It was exciting to work on such a ground-breaking project in Australia. Macquarie University’s new library is world class in every area, and we are proud to have played a part in bringing Australia’s first automated library storage and retrieval solution online."
Automated storage the future for libraries
The use of automated storage and retrieval systems has become increasingly common in major universities and libraries in the USA and Europe.
"Libraries around the world all face similar problems," explained Brodie.
"As collections continue to grow, we all face the task of finding not only where to put titles, but how to retain immediate access to them. For those with larger collections, some form of automation is needed.
"More than 25 automated systems are already in operation in major universities and libraries around the world. In time, they will become commonplace just about everywhere," she said.
"As for Macquarie University, this building is designed to last for the next fifty years," said Brodie. "I’m thrilled to be a part of it. It’s a real investment in the future of the University and our students."
The library was officially opened by Chancellor Michael Egan and Vice Chancellor Professor Stephen Schwartz on Monday August 8, 2011.
Further information: www.dematic.com.au +61 9486 5555