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article imageUniversity of Chicago's 'robotic' library opens

Chicago - The University of Chicago on May 16, 2011 opened the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, where a giant robotic librarian organizes, retrieves and re-shelves automatically, and patrons find books though computer searches, much like accessing online references.
Though the formal dedication won't be held until October 11, the Mansueto Library, an addition to the Joseph Regenstein Library it connects with through a new, similarly-styled footbridge, is open to University of Chicago library patrons now.
The glass dome of this fully new-fangled, yet fully functional, automated library is likely to quickly draw any visitor's attention, as it appears to bubble up from the earth, juxtaposed intriguingly with the Regenstein's brutalist architecture and the abstract bronze "Nuclear Energy" cloud-like (or skull-like) sculpture by Henry Moore that marks the spot where the world's first nuclear reactor operated.
Under the glass and steel ellipse, arrays of chairs and tables accommodate readers throughout the vast, light-bathed, airy space, but there are no shelves or stacks of books. The bar-coded volumes of the extensive collection are stored by size instead of subject (for maximum efficiency) in bins within an immense cavern underneath the reading room.
When a visitor searches by computer for a title or subject, the requested matching books are retrieved and delivered deftly by the giant arms of tall robotic cranes. More space is available for working with computers in this set-up, so researchers can merge methods and use paper and electronic books together, free from fretting over misplaced resources, combining the best of the Internet with the best of a comprehensive traditional library.
But, some may wonder, like Big Think's guest poster Daniel Moore, after summarizing the library's advances and advantages:
If keeping up to 3.5 million printed volumes in a high density auto-curated space like this becomes conventional, will the rarest great books automatically get lost within the rows upon rows of robo-tended racks, just because they are never searched for and never seen, like rare treasures hiding where no one is likely, ever again, to happen upon them by fortuitous, unplanned, human accidents?
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