The librarian then packs up the book in a box that runs on a separate electronic transfer track through the infrastructure of the building, fastens the seat belt (as this box travels upside-down at one point), and sends the book to one of three different desks.
"It's like Disneyland," Butler said.
The whole process takes about 10 minutes.
While the librarians say the response to the system has been positive, some staff were reluctant when it was first proposed.
"I think there was a lot of trepidation up front, especially by traditional users like faculty who are very devoted to the idea of browsing shelves, and of having everything exactly where it was last year," Butler said. "There was some anxiety. But once we explained what it does for us, then they began to understand the principle at work."
With the added storage, the shelves on the library floor are lower and less imposing, which allows for more light in the building, and more study areas.
"The flexibility it provides us is unbelievable, said Karen Brodsky, instruction coordinator at the library. "All libraries run into that problem: What are you going to do when the shelves are full?"
Students can watch the operation from a set of small windows on the third floor of the library (though it's more fun to see it from behind the scenes, of course). It is not in an obvious spot.
The system was built by HK Systems, which builds similar systems for the Federal Reserve, Ford, and Gold Kist Chickens, among others.
And while these types of systems may be old hat for other industries, the library application is relatively new.
California State University Northridge was the first library to implement such a system. University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Eastern Michigan University also have an ARS.
San Francisco State University has expressed an interest in housing some of its collection at Sonoma State's ARS because it is out of space. The school is already renting two warehouses to house its overflow materials.
The Jean & Charles Schulz Information Center, named for the Peanuts' creator and his wife, cost more than $40 million to build. The ARS cost about $2.1 million.
Along with the ARS, the library has built-in ports in the floor so students can log on to the Internet at any time. About half the tables in the building have built-in power strips that flip up so students can plug in a laptop and work at the table. The library is also developing a wireless laptop program for student use.
The ARS receives about 40 requests per day. The system is currently about 35 percent full, leaving plenty of room for more materials.
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