Mathewson IGT Knowledge Center, UNR

This slide show comes from the Mathewson IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno. I visited on Veteran’s Day and even on the national holiday a staff member (Erin Silva) was available to give me a tour, answer my questions and Carolyn Adams (the Head of Library Services) had even prepared a useful briefing paper for me. I have referred to that paper in producing this post, particularly about “MARS” (see below).

UNR’s Mathewson Automated Storage and Retrieval System (“MARS”)

(My thanks again to Carolyn Adams for the information below.)

MARS has six cranes, over 25,000 bins and is three stories high. It was completed in 2008 and now has over 600,000 items locatd in about 10,000 bins (about 40% of maximum capacity). The maximum number of “picks” (retrievals) per day from MARS is 323 and the average picks per day is 77 (they are open from 8 am to midnight, so this is around five per hour), including staff and patron use.

Interestingly, they have three levels of picking stations:

  1. Used by Teaching & Learning Technologies department for (dedicated rather than random) equipment storage. Two workstations on one aisle.
  2. Used by Library Services department (the main level). Items stored include books published before 1995 that have been checked out seven of less times in the last 20 years and periodicals older than one year. High use materials are excluded. They took nine months to load 500,000 items initially. Books and periodicals are all stored randomly. A green mask is used over the external barcode label to denote MARS items. There are 11 workstations on nine aisles.
  3. Used by Special Collections and University Archives. Items have dedicated bin storage and there is a secured access point or non-circulating collections. Storage includesd manuscript boxes and framed photographs. Four workstations on two aisles.

They loaded the (empty) bins in the system first and then loaded the collection items into the bins using the picking stations (which is when the six stations on the main level were busiest). Like UNLV, they have student circulation staff who assisted with this.

They initially marked all books destined for MARS with a blue dot, but these fell off and some were missed, so since then they have used the green mask over the barcode labels to alert retrieval/circulation staff about books to be returned to MARS. Student workers were used to size books for their bins: 8, 10, 12, 14 and 18 inches. They did not report the same physical access issues with the 18 inch bins as reported by UNLV. Maybe their stations were slightly lower? I noted the hazard warning strips and the use of cushioned matting at the stations to make them more comfortable for staff loading books for long time frames. (See the images on Flickr.)

Interestingly, they do not have a sound system to alert staff to requests from MARS (like they do at Lied Library UNLV), so it is dependent on staff looking in on the system (at the rear of their staff area) to see if any bins have been brought up by MARS to the picking stations. The advertised delivery time is 10-15 mins from request, but it is usually in the immediate to 5 mins range.

Monographs in MARS are rarely requested and it seems that journals are the most often requested items. These are not stored in runs. All monographs and periodicals are stored randomly (other than by size), by the system itself. They keep the most recent journal issues on the shelves until bound (in-house), after which they are placed in MARS. They do lend journals (but not from MARS) for up to three days.

They are a recently commissioned library (2008), so did not see the need for a glass window to the system. They have a screen near the circulation desk that runs a loop of a video on the system that is also available on their website. They have now discontinued tours of MARS (which they used to run for anyone) because of safety concerns about access to the machinery itself. Unlike the Australian set up we will have to have under our legislative requirements, there are no protective cages, nor screens preventing people from coming into contact with a crane if they lent over the edge of a station.

Erin said they needed an area to store divider materials (MDF). She did not know whether the MDF stored on carts behind the picking stations was spare or replacement dividers.

Erin said that at first, they did not offer retrievals from MARS over the weekend as circulation staff on weekends were usually just students, but eventually staff were put on to supervise students and now retrievals are available whenever it is open.

Library Building space

The large open atrium was sad to be an important feature that impacts on the student experience when entering the Knowledge Center and therefore impacts on student experience and their behaviour in the library. The openness achieved in the atrium is due to the fact that 50% of the collection is stored in the ASRS, thus leaving more open spaces for library users to use for other purposes. Students can use the spaces as they like, without regulation apart from the fifth floor which is reserved as a quiet space and is glassed in accordingly (unlike the other open floors, which all have a range of group study spaces). The students monitor each others’ behaviour and noise quite well.

The lowest floor (under the ground floor entrance) is perhaps the most unconventional and interesting. Outside the learning commons “@ One” is a 160-seat auditorium with full multi-media capabilities. @ One contains no book shelves at all. It is mostly a computer commons with both PCs and Macs and some large wide screen Macs in the commons area as well as a studio of about 18 Macs in one room for the purposes of using non-text based software to create films, podcasts, etc. They also have two studios, one for sound/film recording and one for editing. They lend out multi-media equipment like video cameras as well.

They have a suite just for data analysis use and a useful and well-used computer instruction lab with tiered and sloped desking.

Probably the most interesting and certainly the most popular feature is their print/production centre, the only such facility on campus. This can produce large posters, art/graphic prints and photographic prints and is very well used by students for all kinds of purposes. They are just charged a cost for the materials (inks, paper, board, etc.) and this works out to be 1/5 of the commercial cost for such services.

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