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How ASRS Works

What is ASRS?

ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System) is a fully-automated stack of books installed in the basement of the Mildred Topp Othmer Library [The trade name by Nippon Filing Co. is "AutoLib."] Users can retrieve the materials in ASRS through the Web OPAC screen.

How ASRS Works

All materials in ASRS are put in both sides of 1.5' x 2' plastic bins that are set in the steel rack. One bin can carry about 40 books. An estimate of 500,000 books are stored in the 12,000 bins of our ASRS. Four cranes run on the rail through aisles sending requested bins to the conveyer, elevator machine, and then to the station in the ground floor office.

Each bin has its unique bar-code number, just like books. The Material location is solely managed by the link of these two-number sets in the computer; that is, link them when put materials in the bin, disconnect them when get them out of the bin.

ASRS Advantages

First, ASRS saves shelf space in the library. It only requires 1/5 space to hold the same number of materials, compared to the ordinary library open stacks on the floor area. Second, ASRS can keep materials in their optimum condition, away from any source of lights and humidity. Third, ASRS sets us free from shelf management. We can put materials back in any vacant bins in any order. Location changes from one bin to another, but ASRS keeps their right links.

Staff Interview (Kimito Kurosawa)



--- Would you tell us about what it was like before the library installed the ASRS system?

In the mid-1980s, the number of books at the ICU Library surpassed its capacity. Extra shelves were added that only extended the accommodation of shelving space until it reached the limit at the end of 1980s again. Books were then put in boxes and sent to warehouses in Yokohama. About 10,000 to 150,000 books per year were put away. Old books not used in the past three years were given priority to be stored. Users had to fill in a form at the Circulation Desk and wait for a couple of days to receive a stored-away book. The Library staff bore the complex and tedious procedures of managing the materials in warehouses for fifteen years. By the end of 1990s, the number of books in the warehouse exceeded 170,000, and the system required a considerable cost for running. We all knew that something had to be done to solve the problem.

--- ASRS was installed with the construction of the Othmer Library. Was it included in the plan from the beginning?

Many meetings were called to discuss the possibility of building a new library since the early 1980s. In the course of drawing up the "Campus Master Plan" in mid-1990s, the decision was made to build a new library by 2000. The largest issue was the means to keep the 170,000 books that would be retrieved from the warehouses. Another issue was to provide students a learning environment with network computers. These two issues were put into the architecture concept.

--- Why did the Library decided to adopt ASRS, and not the open stacks or the conventional compact shelves?

There had been no libraries with ASRS in Japan until we acquired one. Our staff saw it at the California State University Northridge and were impressed with such system. We liked it, because it was compact. Installation cost of ASRS is much higher compared to other types of stacks, but it would cost more if we build the library building with open stack that can hold the same amount of books. Also, the books in the warehouses have older publishing dates, so it was not largely necessary to shelve all of these books back on the open shelves. Of course, unpacking 7,000 boxes of books and arraging them on the shelves in a correct order wasn't an easy task.

--- How long did it take you to put those books from warehouses in ASRS?

It was in the summer of 2000 that we received huge piles of boxes brought back from the warehouses. The boxes which were piled up in 5 columns covered the whole ground floor of the Othmer library. We then opened every box, take out every book, stuck bar codes to every book, read the bar codes and put books into the ASRS. "Arbeit" students worked for all day. It took us about one month to complete all the carry in procedure. I think we put about 5,000 to 10,000 books per day into ASRS.

--- Since ICU Library adopted the open stack system first as university library in Japan, it has been a policy to keep them. Did you give it up with the installation of ASRS?

Yes and no. No, because the open stack system practically fell when we started to send books to warehouses in 1980's. In 2000, one third of our books were in the closed warehouses. But yes, we have changed our policy with the installation of ASRS, and decided to use open stacks in the Main Library with 350,000 books capacity together with ASRS with 500,000 capacity.

--- With ASRS you can assign book location as fixed to particular bins or free. How do you operate ?

Books are to be moved from one bin to another; journals are kept in the specific bins. It makes no difference when you call out. But when you return, it matters. Free located titles can be returned to any new vacant bins, whereas with the fixed location, you would have to call the same bin as before. 30 bins to return 30 titles. If you would like to take advantage of ASRS, you should set as many title as location free.

--- What about the usage statistics? Do students use books in ASRS?

There were only few calls per day when books were kept in the warehouses. Now we count about 100 per day with ASRS. We see a significant change.

-- Are there any mechanical or system malfunctions?

We were worried before, since this is the first full-automated library stack. But we haven't met so many troubles so far. Nippon Filing Co. staffs put consistent effort to improve the machine's performance. Human errors such as misreading of car codes or putting books in wrong directions are much more likely to happen than mechanical ones. Therefore, the administrators should continue providing trainings to staff.

--- Statistics shows that 370,000 books have been placed in the ASRS. 75 percent of capacity has already been occupied.

If we are to base it from the average book thickness, the current storage capacity is approximately at 50%. We will be notified if the storage capacity exceeds the limit when a warning message "Stack is full" appears on the screen. However, to prevent this and to maximize storage, we constantly monitor the usage and at the same time get rid of unnecessary books.
--- Thank you very much.

Reference (Japanese text):

"Introduction and management to Automated Storage and Retrieval System: In case of International Christian University Library." Kurosawa, K. Daigaku Toshokan Mondai Kenkyukai Shi. vol.25 (Feb. 2004) p.1-10

"Interlocked operation between Library System and Automated Storage and Retrieval System. Case study pt.2 at International Christian University Library." Kurosawa, K. Daigaku Toshokan Mondai Kenkyukai Shi. vol.26 (Jun. 2004) p.1-12

"Free Location by size and Fixed Location of AutoLib. Case study pt.3 at International Christian University Library." Kurosawa, K. Daigaku Toshokan Mondai Kenkyukai Shi. vol.27 (Dec. 2004) p.1-12

"Toward long-term use of AutoLib. Case study pt.4 of International Christian University Library." Kurosawa, K. Daigaku Toshokan Mondai Kenkyukai Shi. vol.29 (Dec. 2005) p.1-10

Virtual Tour

You can see a short movie of ASRS at Nippon Filing Co. website. ASRS in the movie is made with the same specification as the one in the Othmer Library.

 MOVIE (Nippon Filing Co.)

Would you like to have a look at ASRS in our Library? Our Library staff will conduct a short tour of ASRS for group of five people or more. Please call or send an email to us.

History

Calendar

March 2017

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Open Hour

 10 
Weekday (In term)
8:30 - 22:30
 11 
Saturday (In term)& Summer
9:00 - 20:00
 12 
Saturday (Exam)
9:00 - 22:30
 13 
Sunday (ONLY for ICU students,Faculties, and staff/Othmer library closed)
13:00 - 19:00
 14 
Out of Term
9:00 - 16:30

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