High tech storage to preserve British Library books

Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:32pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The British Library is re-housing part of its collection in a new facility that will hand responsibility for the storage and retrieval of seven million items to a robotic crane rather than a librarian.

The 30-million pound climate-controlled center in the northern English town of Boston Spa will house the equivalent of 262 km (162.8 miles) of shelving in the type of high-density warehousing more often used by retailers than libraries.

Steve Morris, the library's director of finance and corporate services, said books would be stored in containers stacked according to an algorithm that calculates demand for the titles.

"The cranes actually are the only part of the organization now that will know where this material has been put," Morris said in an interview with Reuters TV.

"Over time, as the material is accessed the system will remember which books are being looked at the most and it will keep that material at the front of the building so it's easily retrieved."

Books that are hardly ever requested will eventually end up at the back of the building.

The new technology will mean only eight people are needed to access the collection stored at the center.

"We used to walk around the floors and retrieve a book by hand whereas with this, once it's in there all we do is zap a button really and it comes to us," Library worker Alison Stephenson said.

Stephenson and her colleagues are checking material arriving from London as it is placed into containers and dispatched by the automated collection robots into the depths of the building.   Continued...