Internationally-acclaimed composer Paul Rudy helps introduce UMKC Miller Nichols Library’s book robot

UMKC Friends of the Library Annual Celebration takes place May 12

Paul Rudy – a Guggenheim Fellow, internationally-acclaimed composer and UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance professor – will be the featured guest at UMKC Friends of the Library‘s “Meet the Robot” Celebration. Rudy will join Sharon L. Bostick, Dean of Libraries, in welcoming guests to an exclusive look inside Miller Nichols Library‘s new book robot. Fewer than 20 other North American university libraries have incorporated similar technology.

Along with Conservatory doctoral student, Scott Blasco, Rudy also will present a commissioned art installation inspired by the evolution of libraries and Miller Nichols Library’s new book robot. The celebration will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 12 on the third floor of Miller Nichols Library, 800 E. 51st St.

“Right now the robot is a novelty, because it’s the only one like it in the region and is pretty amazing to watch,” said Bostick. “The real importance of this project, however, is what comes next – what it allows us to do with the original library structure.”

Once fully implemented, the book robot – also known as an automated high-density storage and retrieval system (ASRS) – will hold about 80 percent of the library’s collection, creating space for student, researcher and community use. New spaces will include individual and group study areas, collaborative learning areas, presentation space, areas for events and meetings and an expanded cafe. Though a significant portion of the collection will be stored in the retrieval system, more than 200,000 books, music recordings and other recorded materials will remain on open shelving and available for browsing.

Items stored in the robot’s various-sized shelving and storage bins take up only about one-seventh of the floor space used by conventional open-stacked shelving. By constructing the robot as an addition to the library’s existing structure, materials can be housed on-site and remain easily accessible. The robot has been built to accommodate an additional 15 years of growth. Storage in the retrieval system is environmentally-friendly and secure.

Library staff will begin loading the robot this summer. As soon as the first item has been stored, the robot will “officially” be on duty. Here’s how it will work:

  • Like now, a user will search for materials using MERLIN, the library catalog. MERLIN provides a gateway to everything stored in the robot. Requests for materials housed in the robot can be made on any computer with internet access. When a user identifies the items they would like to use or check out, they simply request that the materials be retrieved by clicking the retrieve button on the screen.
  • Once a request is made, an automatic, robotic crane will locate the shelf or bin where the requested items are located and deliver them to a pick-up station staffed by library personnel.
  • At the pick-up station, a staff member retrieves the selected materials, holding them until retrieved by the patron.
  • The entire process and transaction can take place in about four minutes.

The robot’s manufacturer, HK Systems, produced the following video to explain how the robot works:

Construction of the Miller Nichols Library Robot Addition, which began in the spring of 2008, is part of a larger library expansion project that includes an expanded information commons. Other phases will include the construction of classrooms, seminar rooms, study rooms, a further expanded information commons, computing areas, a lecture hall and open spaces for collaborative learning.

Space for this exclusive preview event is limited. Tickets can be ordered through the Central Ticket Office online or by calling (816) 235-6222. The cost to attend is $25 for current Friends of the Library members and UMKC students and $35 for guests. A $50 ticket includes entry to the event as well as a one-year Friends of the Library membership.

UMKC Friends of the Library is a membership organization dedicated to providing needed community support to strengthen collections and services of the UMKC Libraries. Since their founding in 1965, the Friends have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding, over $35,000 this year, for the collections of UMKC’s Dental, Health Sciences, Miller Nichols, and Music/Media Libraries, through their annual gift and through the individual gifts and bequests made by members.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience.

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