Thursday, March 20, 2014

The $81 million Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago, which opened in May 2011.

The Mansueto Library stands next to Regenstein Library, a Brutalist library constructed in 1970. Mansueto Library was designed by architect Helmut Jahn to be a vast reading room and storage library.

The Main Reading Room is enclosed by a glass-and-steel dome that is 35 feet high, 240 feet long, and 120 feet wide. Each panel contains three layers of glass. The outer panel of glass is coated with 1/8-inch wide ceramic dots which help make it look opaque from the outside -- thus ensuring that dozens of birds don't die every day smacking into it. A whopping 99 percent of UV rays are blocked by the glass. The ceramic dots, combined with a Low E coating, help the glass dome to reject 73 percent of solar heat, keeping the interior cool in summer and retaining heat in winter.

The south half of the dome contains an 8,000-square-foot, 180-person capacity Main Reading Room. It was designed by Yorgo Lykouria of the London-based firm Lykouria Ltd. All tables and chairs are made of European white oak with stainless steel trim. Four long rows of reading tables provide lighting and free electricity. Each table has space to which a patron can lock a laptop to an anti-theft device. The two outer rows are made up of seven connected four-person tables, while the two inner rows consist of eight connected four-person tables. If needed, the tables can be disconnected to provide for group study. Fifteen four-person tables, each with lighting and free electrical connections, are located around the perimeter of the room. Free wireless broadband is available for anyone in the Main Reading Room. All users of the Main Reading Room also have access to a multifunction color copier/printer/scanner (for a fee).

The Main Reading Room also contains three glass-enclosed Research Cubicles, which can be reserved by by users who need to consult a large amount of material over the course of several days. A Research Cubicle can be reserved for a maximum of two weeks.

The center of Mansueto Library is occupied by a Circulation Service Center, which contains limited office for circulation staff, electronic card catalog terminals, distribution and return ports for printed materials, and reference desk assistance.

The north half of Mansueto Library consists of the Preservation Department. The Preservation Department, in turn, has a conservation division and a digitization division. The conservation division handles rare or damaged materials. Its freezer (used to treat books that are wet, moldy, or infested with insects) can reach temperatures as low as –40 degrees Fahrenheit. Its ultrasonic welder can fuse two sheets of stable polyester film together to enclose and protection fragile. The digitization division has a Zeutschel book scanner that can scan an entire book in under 30 minutes.

Fifty feet beneath Mansueto Library's only floor is a 3.5 million-volume storage space kept at a constant 60 degrees Fahrenheit. (Every degree below 65F extends the life of a book or magazine by more than a year). The humidty is kept at a constant 30 percent, and oxygen levels are low to suppress fire. The storage area contains 24,000 steel bins, and can process more than 20,000 books a day. Books are stored by size, not Dewey decimal system number. Each book, magazine, paper, or other item has a bar code. A robot takes the item from the bin, and stores it in the proper location according to its bar code. There are five 50-foot-high robotic cranes which move along tracks between the storage bins.

Robots, not human beings also retrieve items. It takes three minutes to get an item from the storage unit and into the hands of a patron.

Mansueto is not designed to be a main library. Regenstein is the main library, where more than 10.5 million volumes are kept on shelves and in fast-retrieval storage. Mansueto was designed as an auxiliary library and storage facility. By expanding storage capacity, Regenstein would not have to store volumes off-site or get rid of them completely. By providing space for more than 3.5 million additional volumes, as well as 180 patron carrells, Regenstein was able to keep books and magazines on shelves rather than put them in storage. This ensures that the University of Chicago main libraries will have enough space at least until 2029.

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