UTS Library

Library Retrieval System (LRS)

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The Library Retrieval System (LRS) is an automated storage and retrieval facility where our low-use collection items are sorted by size and stored in metal bins. When you request an item, these bins are retrieved automatically by a robotic crane. Library staff deliver these items to UTS Library throughout the day for collection.

LRS at a glance

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Facts & figures:

  • The LRS uses automated storage and retrieval technology, which is common in the logistics, manufacturing and transport industries as well as about 30 university libraries in the US and one other in Australia (Macquarie University).
  • The total capacity of the UTS LRS is around one million items.
  • The LRS has six aisles, each served by a 15m robotic crane on rails. Items are stored in approximately 12,000 galvanised steel bins of four different heights.
  • The initial LRS ingest from the City Campus Library was 325,000 items and from Kuring-Gai Library a total of 116,000 items were loaded.
  • The ingest from the City Campus Library was completed by 30 July 2014.
  • A total of 245,000 printed items will remain on open shelves in the Library.

Requests, deliveries & discovery

  • Requests for items stored in the LRS are made online, direct from the item’s catalogue record.
    See: How to request items from the LRS
  • Items that are requested but not picked up will be held on our holdshelf for up to seven days.
  • Material in our LRS are delivered regularly, with deliveries made several times each day.
  • Only the newest and most highly-used physical items are housed on open shelves, making it easier to browse and locate items amongst the most popular books from our collection.
  • Enhancements to our catalogue have been made to encourage new ways to discover items in our collections by searching and browsing online. Shelf View lets you browse a ‘bookshelf’ displaying book covers, our ‘collection ribbon’ is a unique way to delve in to our collection by subject, and 
  • We are working on developing recommendation and personalisation tools in the future.

Collection merger & development

  • The LRS allowed for the complete merger of the City and Kuring-Gai libraries in 2015.
  • By storing low-use physical items in this purpose-built system we are able to relieve overcrowding on book shelves in the physical Library and make room to continue to expand our collection of print resources.
  • Currently, the Library Collection of printed items is growing at almost 20,000 per year.
  • The LRS will let us continue to build our collections, with room to expand to at least 2040.

Sustainability initiatives

  • The building itself has major sustainability features, being constructed under the same project works as the 5 Green Star design rated Thomas St Building (Building 7), including: sustainable concrete; high grade insulation and thermal control; a natural light feature; and waste minimisation and management during construction.
  • Items are stored in a highly compact format; storing the same amount of books in a traditional library would require a building 4-5 times larger.
  • Library staff will walk between the LRS and the Library using trollies and backpacks to deliver books, rather than relying on cars which would add to traffic congestion and pollution.
  • The building contributes to the natural air cooling of Building 7 through a Plenum, which reduces the air temperature by passing it through concrete and exposed rock.

Consequences for the Library

  • The LRS helps us meet the needs of our clients by freeing up Library space to allow for new study spaces as teaching and learning changes and our student population grows. We need to provide diverse spaces to facilitate different types of learning from quiet, individual study to collaborative group learning.
  • We hope to provide spaces and technologies within the future Library that facilitate access to productive activities such as multi-media, gaming and “maker” technologies because many of our students are no longer assessed purely on written output: they are making things like models, videos, games, websites, etc.
  • The LRS will also help to facilitate some major changes in our service model, enabling the Library to offer improved and new services to support teaching, learning and research.

Where is it and what does it look like?

  • The LRS is located under the Western end of Jones St and of Alumni Green.
  • The facility is about as deep as a five storey building is tall.
  • There is a viewing “lens” located on the South-West corner of Alumni Green and from there you will be able to see the two Western aisles and cranes when they are in action.
  • Photos of the LRS are available on Mal Booth's Flickr page.
You can also try to book a place on a tour of the LRS to see if for yourself

Why are the books being stored in the LRS?

Shot of Library stairwellAs a university located in the heart of the city, space is at a premium and our students are asking for more individual spaces to study as well as areas designed specifically for group collaboration. Client feedback also tells us that you want areas and facilities that enhance the library experience, such as events, artwork and inspirational spaces.

To accommodate these requests we have opted to locate our least used items in the LRS.

We know some of our clients like to browse the open shelves and tell us the opportunity for serendipitous discovery is an important way to find interesting resources. We are therefore enhancing our discovery systems to make it easy to locate items in our collection and identify resources which might be useful. We will continue to enhance our discovery systems so it is easy to get a specific item when you want it, but also to browse and stumble upon interesting or useful resources when you aren’t quite sure what you need.

What are the benefits of storing books in the LRS?

The LRS has many benefits for collection preservation, client service and sustainability. Items in the LRS will be stored in stable temperature and humidity conditions that are ideally suited for preserving paper materials. The items will therefore be stored in conditions which would not be achievable if the items remained on the open shelving, particularly as they aged. It should also prove to be much faster to find and retrieve items stored in the LRS than on open shelves.

With our large collection we know from client feedback that it can be difficult to find items in the current library buildings where shelves are often very full. In the LRS items will be securely stored and able to be delivered in a matter of minutes, usually much faster than locating the item on an open shelf yourself.

For the newer, high-use items which will still be held on open shelves, the reduced number of items should make it easier to browse and locate items in the collection. The LRS is also able to store over four times as many print items in a given space than conventional open shelving, so there are also sustainability benefits.

How many books will be stored in the LRS?

The Library Retrieval System has the capacity to store around 1 million items, and at our current acquisition rate will reach full capacity by 2040.

How is the collection stored in the LRS be protected from damage?

The items in the LRS are protected from fire and water damage through the design of the building and the nature of the system itself. Both are subject to meeting strict building code conditions to prevent such damage.

What is the building's environmental impact?

As part of the Thomas Street Building project, the LRS building benefits from a number of green features. The underground environment is relatively stable and helps us work towards minimising heating and cooling costs. 

What if I can't pick up my LRS request straight away?

Items will be held at Open Reserve for up to 7 days.

What happens if the LRS breaks?

The system is reliable, tested, and has been used by industry for decades. When a problem does occur, it generally affects only one of our six cranes, or one/sixth of our low use collection. Our staff are trained to handle these minor problems, and will usually have the issue corrected within 15 minutes. 


Why do we need books and why do we need the LRS if we can access all our information online?

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We believe that print collections remain an integral component of an academic library. Electronic publications offer convenience in terms of access and searchability, and our online collections will continue to grow to meet our clients’ demands for material in this format as more electronic information becomes available.

However a rush to move to e-only is premature and foolhardy. The growth of electronic material is not consistent across all subject areas and for all purposes, so we continue to acquire print collections to meet genuine and ongoing needs. As some examples of this we might point to image-heavy monographs in disciplines such as art, design and architecture where e-copies are often not available and where print is the preferred medium for the quality of images and the reading experience it can provide. Publishers have also been slow in some cases to offer electronic versions of undergraduate textbooks. In time this issue may resolve as new business models are established, but for now we continue to acquire print textbooks as often the only version available.

In investing in the LRS, the Library and University are recognising the value of our existing print collection which has been established over 30 years and supports learning, teaching and research at UTS. This collection will continue to have value to scholars and many of the items it contains are unlikely to be available electronically in future. It is part of our role to preserve this information and ensure its ongoing accessibility for future scholarship.

In maintaining print collections, especially of monographs, we are also guided by the preferences of our users and current research which demonstrates an ongoing preference for print as a medium for study and as an aid to cognition and retention of information. Electronic material offers many advantages, and we know our online collections are heavily used, but it is also apparent in some circumstances clients prefer to read print copies of material and find this a method more conducive to deep learning.