by Tim Lohman

Macquarie University to roll out automated storage and retrieval system

Jul 03, 20093 mins

Macquarie University is to introduce an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) in a bid to meet its hardcopy book and periodical storage needs through to 2050.

The four storey high system, an Australian first according to Jennifer Peasley, deputy university librarian at Macquarie University, will be located in a new purpose-built library facility currently under construction.

Evolved from ASRS commonly used in warehousing systems in the automotive parts industry, the system, supplied by HK Systems, will use robotic cranes to retrieve items stored in metal bins, themselves stored in an environmentally controlled vault.

Once an order for an item is placed, the system will take about two minutes to deliver it to a service desk for collection by a student or staff member.

Barcodes, rather than RFID tags, will be used to identify and track items. A two digit code, based on the last two digits of the barcode, is used to help library staff manually identify items in the bins.

The system and storage facility, due to be complete by December 2010, will be capable of handling 1.8 million items – the number of items expected to be in the collection by 2050 – once complete. Macquarie is currently in the process of tagging its current collection of 1.4 million items in preparation for the move to the ASRS.

Peasley said Macquarie had opted for the system as the high density storage will result in a significantly smaller building footprint, releasing more space for student use, and will allow for Macquarie to consolidate its entire collection into one physical collection. It currently shares a storage facility with the State Library of NSW.

Around 80 percent of Macquarie’s physical collection will be stored in the ASRS with the remaining 20 percent to be housed on open access shelves.

“This way we will be able to place the lesser used items in the storage system and have the more commonly used items in the open access area where students can still walk in and take it off a shelf,” she said.

The university’s new library facility will contribute to the aims of the University to support greater intensity in research, to support excellence in teaching and learning, and to engage with the community, Peasley said.

“The focus of the Library has changed from being a repository for books to being a learning space which provides flexible, configurable study spaces for new generations of students, including students with special needs, researchers and postgraduate students.”

A video of a similar ASRS system in action can be viewed here.