Top shelf, third drawer down: robotic library book retrieval explained


You might have heard about the robot in the University Library that retrieves your books, but how does it work?

The Automated Retrieval Collection (ARC)
Most resources you need are either online, in reserve or on open shelves. But just under a million lesser-used items are kept in a vault behind the information desk near the reserve area. This is the Automated Retrieval Collection (ARC) and it is serviced by four robotic cranes that retrieve the books you request. Macquarie was the first library in Australia to use automation in this way.


How to make a request
Items in the ARC are clearly shown in MultiSearch, the Library’s search function. To make a request, just click on the item and, once logged in, click request. Your item will be available for you within 30 minutes from a special shelf in the reserve area.

Why have the robots?
In a word: sustainability. If the items in the ARC were on typical shelving, the Library would need to be 11,000 square metres larger and that means a bigger ecological footprint from water use, electricity and other consumables. Having lesser-used items in the ARC has also freed up more floor space for people rather than physical resources, which makes sense in this era of digital learning.


Can I see inside?
Tours of the ARC are usually run on Open Day, but if you want to peek in, there are windows outside at the back of the Library. There’s also a video that explains how the system works.





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