by ERICK R. SCHMIDT // Fall 2010
Miller Nichols Library
This artist’s rendering shows how the expanded Miller Nichols Library will accommodate not only comfortable quiet study spaces, state-of-the-art technology and wireless Internet access, but also a robotic retrieval system that houses materials in about one-seventh the floor space used by conventional open-stacked shelving.

When the Miller Nichols Library unveils its latest renovations this fall following a $20 million update, the robotic retrieval system will surely pluck as many headlines as it does books. After all, it’s a four-story system that helps library patrons pinpoint exactly the resources they need and effortlessly delivers them to the circulation desk for pickup. But there’s much more to this redesign than the robot. “Even though the robot is the cool, new, visible part, the most significant changes happening here will be after the robot,” says Mark Mattison, advancement officer for UMKC Libraries.

The robot and current renovations are considered to be Phase One of the library overhaul. Another key aspect to the renovation is the amount of room that we be repurposed into flexible space for library patrons. Mattison says that as the collections have grown the past 40 years, room for library patrons has been pushed out. The robot will eventually store as much as 800,000 of the library’s more than 1 million items in its bins and shelving, allowing those materials to be stored on-location but also out of the way of patrons.

Along with the robot comes enhanced browsability of the online catalog. The ultimate goal is a search function similar to, including looks at the insides of books. “By the end of this academic year,” he says, “you won’t recognize the first floor of the library.” Dean of Libraries Sharon Bostick said she understands the fascination with the robot. In fact, she’s as excited for its debut as anyone on campus.

But Bostick says she is most excited to share with the UMKC community years of hard work, planning and progress as the entire library system returns with substantial upgrades throughout, including everything from more user space to increased research database access to, yes, the robot.

“The level of excitement here is pretty high,” Bostick says. “The ideas are really flowing.”
Bostick says the project has been made possible in large part through the partnership and support of the Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation. “When the economic realities set in, the Foundation helped us re-envision the overall project, which we’ve now broken into phases,” Bostick says. “It was a priority for everyone to keep this moving — the chancellor has deemed it the University’s top capital project because it’s so integral to UMKC’s enrollment goals.”

The future phases of the project will include further renovations to the other floors, Bostick says. Of course, the ultimate goal of the library is making research easier and more effective. Bostick says she wants the area to be a destination for students. To make that a reality, there are plans for group study rooms, which Bostick says have skyrocketed in popularity. By April 2011, there will be a full-service café. For the more traditional library patrons, there will also be a quiet floor for studying. The goal is to incorporate every learning style into one library.

All smiles
Nothing trivial about an $87,000 payday

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