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No, Temple’s New BookBot Isn’t Replacing Library Stacks

A rendering of the central lobby and atrium in Temple's new state-of-the-art library, designed by Snøhetta and scheduled for completion in 2018. | Photo credit: Snøhetta

A rendering of the central lobby and atrium in Temple’s new state-of-the-art library, designed by Snøhetta and scheduled for completion in 2018. | Photo credit: Snøhetta

Libraries often evoke nostalgia. Whether it’s the reminder of our first library cards, meandering the aisles on a rainy weekend day or pulling an all-nighter during college, many of us have fond memories of hunkering down with a book at a library. It’s no surprise, then, that some folks expressed worry on social media regarding a space-saving BookBot retrieval system that Temple is set to integrate into its new 210,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art library. It seemed as though Temple was ridding the library of books. 

At first glance, the concern was valid: How in the world are you supposed to stock a library without stacks? But to that, Temple says: the books aren’t going anywhere.

In reality, the purpose of the BookBot is decrease the square footage allotted to typical book storage, thus allowing increased space for learning. Students will still be able to thumb through 200,000 titles in traditional stacks, and should a book be unavailable (they house over 2 million texts!), library-goers can click a button reading ‘Get This Item,’ which will activate a robot who will go retrieve the book from “five [book bin] bays,” each 55 feet high and 150 feet long. Then, a library staff member will claim the book and place it on a pickup shelf readily accessible to students. Pretty nifty, right?

The cutting-edge technology is completely in line with the new library’s mission, too.  At the recent groundbreaking, President Theobold explains that the new building is “replacing the model of repository with that of information exchange.” Likewise, 60 percent of the building will now be dedicated to user space, fostering collaboration and idea-sharing amongst users.

Joseph Lucia, Temple’s Dean of Libraries, expressed similar excitement about the facility’s future:

“The 21st century library, liberated by the digital revolution, amplifies this legacy of intellectual and community engagement by providing its users with a complex ecosystem of spaces, from traditional quiet reading areas, to rooms for group study and collaboration, to maker spaces, event and exhibition facilities, cafes and classrooms.

This shift will allow for greater dissemination of information and research. Lucia continues, “As we become free of the burden of dealing with massive quantities of materials, we can amplify the power of the space.” To do so, it’s essential to look beyond the building itself, and refocus on the resources inside and their capacity to transcend a physical space. At the library’s opening, this will include Temple University Press, a digital scholar space, special collections and an immersive visualization lab for graduate scholars. Additionally, the building will act as a social nexus, ideal for collaboration and encouraging creativity.

So, don’t fret about bookless libraries, everyone; Temple promises they’re here to stay. In the meantime, we’ll be patiently waiting with the rest of the university bibliophiles for the 2018 library opening date.

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