Wednesday, December 13, 2006


This morning I have been perusing the growing stack of journals on my desk, passing on one's I have read to other librarians and putting others aside for further reading. In addition to general library fare that includes Booklist, Book Links, and Library Journal, I began browsing through the year end special issue of Campus Technology that features "101 Best Practices in ... Smart Classrooms, Connectivity, and Administrative IT," December 2006. Paying particular interest to this issue because recently I began serving on a technology instructor search committee for the College of Education, I was intrigued to find buried amongst emerging classroom technologies (check out Tegrity) a Smart Library at Utah State University with the Smart Classroom section.

"Utah State University’s new Merrill-Cazier Library, opened in the 2005-2006 academic year, is using technology to not only retrieve information from the library catalog, but also retrieve the books themselves. The $42 million project features a state-of-the-art system of robotic stacks, 85 feet high, 60 feet wide, and 120 feet long, which locates requested materials among the 1.5 million volumes and speeds them to patrons—at a rate of 328 feet per minute. The space-saving system allows for many years of collection development. Says Linda Wolcott, vice provost for libraries, “The Merrill-Cazier Library has become the hub of learning on campus, providing the resources, access to technology, and flexible study environments that support the way students learn today.” " (Smart Library, Campus Technology, 12/2006)

Unfortunately, the article made no further mention regarding exactly what books were housed within the USU Merrill-Cazier Library retrieval system, the BARN. Sharing my finding with two student workers, I wondered if it was the entire library or specific collections within the library utilizing the system. In all honesty, we were a bit taken aback by the idea of a juvenile collection being part of this storage since it is routinely a frequently browsed area in our library. I was intrigued enough to want to learn more. They were concerned I watched the availabe web cam to see how it worked. Check out the BARN (ASRS) page on the USU Merrill-Cazier library web site to learn about what the BARN is, why they chose a BARN, and what is housed in their BARN. For anyone wondering what BARN stands for, it means Borrower's Automated Retrieval Network; a much simpler, catchier acronym than ASRS or Automated Storage and Retrieval System.

With what may be a growing trend, how many institutions can actually afford this technology? I would imagine it is not something smaller and/or mid-sized academic libraries will quickly adopt. Not just because of the cost issue, but also because collections may not warrant off-site storage of any type. Either way, it sheds an interesting light on the shelf shifting I have been doing in the library juvenile collection for the last 4 - 6 weeks. Creating additional room where no room exists is an ongoing challenge, even an opportunity. In retrospect, a nice little robotic arm would have been welcomed.

Here are a few academic libraries in Canada and the US utilizing ASRS:

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