MUW becomes first in state to receive library robot technology

Lauren Trimm

News Editor

Phase Three of construction for the John C. Fant Memorial Library has begun and will include a book robot, a café and coffee shop, a digital classroom and several conference rooms. 

A total of 13 study rooms that can be reserved online will be available for students. The Center for Teaching and Learning will also be relocated to the library. This will provide classroom and computer lab spaces for faculty to meet and share ideas. 

“The idea is really for the library to be the heart of campus, and there will be so much space to bring people in, and that will be useful for people,” said Amanda Powers, dean of Library Services. 

One of the main new features of the library is the $1.5 million Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS), a book robot integrated with the online catalog. Students will be able to push a button on the catalog and the robot will retrieve their desired book from the correct storage bin and place it in a holding area that will go to the circulation desk. The W is the first university in the state of Mississippi to have this type of technology. 

Once the ASRS is fully available to the public, it will hold about 150,000 books. However, approximately 100,000 books will still be accessible on the floor of the library. The robot allows the library to have optimum storage space. Instead of having almost 300,000 books on the floor, there will be fewer shelves in the library. This allows what would normally be used as storage space to be used for other things such as study areas and conference rooms. 

The W archives will find their new home in the library as well. Previously housed in Cromwell, the archives will no longer be a located in a separate facility. Now, all archives, documents and books will be under one roof. The goal is to make everything in the archives and special collections easier to access.

“We will have a really nice-sized footprint for our archives,” said Powers. “The archives area will have great space for researchers to come in from around the world.”

The new location for the archives will feature on-staff archivists and space for preserving and repairing materials, along with greater storage for the artifacts and manuscripts. 

“It looks like it’s going to be a great space for archives and special collections,” said Derek Webb, the university’s archivist. “We’re going to have a reading room that can seat 18 people, and we’ll also have a terminal for a microfilm machine and things like that.”

The Special Collections portion of the new archive location includes about 1,050 linear feet of books, which is about 8,400 books total. 

The entire renovation project has been about eight years in the making. It is a bond-funded project, meaning the state of Mississippi is involved in providing the funding. The entire project took $18 million, and construction is expected to finish in Summer 2017.