The Metropolis of Athenaeum, a card catalog for the 21st century
This 8,000-square-foot basement storage facility and retrieval system at CSUN's Oviatt Library can accommodate up to 1.7 million books and journals with its 12 three-story towers housing a total of 13,260 two-by-four-foot steel bins of varying heights. CSUN's system currently houses nearly a milion books and periodicals—about 50% of the Oviatt's total holdings. When a stored title is requested, one of six cranes retrieves the appropriate bin and delivers it to a port, where a student employee aided by a visual map finds the book and scans it out. The process from request to delivery takes less than 10 minutes, making this an elegant alternative to deaccessioning less popular but still relevant titles. The endlessly kind and patient staff of the library granted me special access and made some custom requests so that I could see and photograph the cranes in motion. It's eerily beautiful, especially in the ambient light cast from the Oviatt's ground-floor observation deck skylights three stories above.