Campus News

Robotic storage system planned for Libraries Annex

Exterior of UB Libraries Annex.

The University Libraries plans to install an automated storage and retrieval system in its annex on Rensch Road, which would create additional room in campus libraries for technology-rich study spaces and classrooms.

By MARCENE ROBINSON

Published October 25, 2021

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“The installation of this transformational tool as part of the annex offers the libraries the opportunity to expand UB students’ learning environments while providing efficient storage of, and continued access to our rich physical collections. ”
Evviva Weinraub, vice provost for university libraries

Robots are coming to the Libraries Annex.

The University Libraries will install an automated storage and retrieval system in the 16,000-square-foot facility that will use four to six robots to sort and pick more than 1 million books and other library materials.

The automated storage system will allow the Libraries Annex, located at 3850 Rensch Road, adjacent to the North Campus, to more efficiently and safely store its vast physical collections, as well as continue the University Libraries’ plan to reinvent UB’s campus libraries into state-of-the-art intellectual hubs.

The new system would create additional room in campus libraries for technology-rich study spaces and classrooms tailored to educational experiences and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

“The installation of this transformational tool as part of the annex offers the libraries the opportunity to expand UB students’ learning environments while providing efficient storage of, and continued access to our rich physical collections,” says Evviva Weinraub Lajoie, vice provost for university libraries.

Evolution of library storage

Automated storage and retrieval systems are quickly becoming the standard for library storage. The systems have been adopted by major academic libraries across the country, including at Cornell University, California State University and the University of Chicago.

The Libraries Annex currently employs the high bay storage model — developed during the 1980s — which requires staff to travel along aisles in forklifts to pick materials from shelves that reach up to 30 feet high.

Evolution of archival storage systems.

An automated storage system uses an innovative cube model that attaches bins vertically along a grid. Rechargeable robots travel on the top layer of the system to retrieve and return materials from the bins. Because aisles are not needed in the model, the system can drastically increase storage space.

The new system would enable the Libraries Annex to store an additional 1.2 million volumes and process over 30 times more transactions, as well as decrease the risk of injury for libraries staff. Transitioning to automated storage also saves the University Libraries more than $950,000 in costs.

The additional storage capacity would allow the University Libraries to become a leader in Collective Collecting, a coordinated policy among SUNY libraries to share materials and resources.

Beginning phase one

The University Libraries are in the process of identifying an automated storage and retrieval system that best meets the needs of the university and students.

Preparation for the new system is underway, as libraries staff are working to right-size collections in campus libraries by identifying and withdrawing lightly used materials for storage in the Libraries Annex. Movement of the materials would create upward of 60,000 to 100,000 square feet of learning space in campus libraries.