University of Chicago's Robotic Library Makes Your Librarian Obsolete

Tomorrow, The University of Chicago will be changing how their students will be doing their research papers. The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library will use a massive automated retrieval system, turning the whole library experience on it's head.


Even now, libraries can be a little intimidating. The Dewey Decimal System seems like one of those relics of a cruel past when even reading a book entailed a trial by fire. That's how I feel anyway. The Mansueto Library does away with that pain by automating the whole process with robotic cranes. Naturally. Imagine the entire experience:

Gone is the frustration of not finding the book that the system swears is exactly where you are looking. Gone is the having to sneak through dark corners of stacks and walk all over the library to find a single tome. However, also gone are the serendipitous encounters with texts surrounding the one you were looking for, guiding your research and interests in new directions.

Which is a shame, for sure. But even then, maybe you can still make your way to that fortuitous find but in a whole new way. And without that librarian glowering at you. [University of Chicago Libraries via Geekosystem, Big Think]


Benny Gesserit

In all fairness, it doesn't make librarians obsolete - it makes the "restacking" function almost obsolete. Librarians bring a lot more to the library than making sure the stacks are in order.

One of the things I'd miss is the serendipitous nature of the library experience. When I went to university (dodging dinosaurs on the way, of course), often the prof would say "You should look for Field's book on graph theory and intelligence representation in the library." I'd toddle over to the library, find it in the stack and notice Jones' book, on the same shelf, had a different ideas on the subject. And I check out both.

Hopefully the website will borrow from Amazon and say "people who checked this book out also looked at ..."