Books are an endangered species, at least in their current form. But until every book is digitized and available in a database somewhere, libraries carrying physical books still have their place. And the new Grand Reading Room of the Joe and Rika Mansueto library is a pretty crazy version of those.
Sure, before too long a cavernous library full of books won't make much sense. Everything in this monumental space could fit on something the size of a deck of cards if it was all digitized, after all. But when we're talking about long out of print books and books that haven't been digitized for whatever reason, the only way to get at their data is the old fashioned way.
Rather than have stacks that people could sort through, this new library at the University of Chicago features books tightly packed in bins that are stacked five stories high. When you want one, a librarian will put your order in, and robotic cranes will go and fetch it from its spot. It gets to your hands in about five minutes, which is much less time than if you had to use the card catalogue and find it yourself.
Sure, this expensive setup won't make sense forever. But for now, it's pretty amazing.
Via Singularity Hub