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The classic idea of a librarian – a pedantic person who is always shushing people – is giving way to a high-tech version that isn’t perturbed by chatty patrons. By combining high density storage systems with robotic storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), large libraries are expanding their collections without slowing down the retrieval and re-shelving of the millions of publications in their charge. Now libraries can take their storage to architectural extremes without losing document retrieval efficiency. See the remarkable photos here.

And when you have 157 miles of shelving condensed into an ancient building like the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, fetching one particular book could exhaust a human librarian. As reported by Attila Nagy in Gizmodo, efficient robots free up librarians’ time to do what they do best: curating publications and assisting readers in identifying the ideal resource for their needs.

Despite this move toward automation, nothing can replace a librarian’s ability to categorize and connect disparate topics and arcane sources. No one can better encourage a young reader by offering exactly the right book. Librarians are uniquely situated to collect and preserve countless publications and make sure they are stored safely, ideally in a modern high density storage system.

And even though they may dispatch a robot to retrieve your favorite book, librarians will still discourage loud talking.


Photo © Svyatoslav Lypynskyy/