A lot of you have probably found yourselves wishing, upon occasion, that you had more space for your books. Or Star Wars action figures. So you’ve probably all thought of digging a really deep hole in the ground and putting the books in it and getting robots to retrieve them when you’re hungry for those special word-papers but only the robot knows where to find them… Put away your blueprints, because one prominent university has already made this robot-dream into reality.
Meet the Mansueto Library, the University of “greedy-for-books” Chicago’s new window-dome reading room and underground book storage facility. The enormous Soviet-style main library just wasn’t big enough for all the books (and feels somehow anti-human inside), so the University got Helmut Jahn to design its new sexy addition. The above-ground structure is an ovoid glass and steel dome that glistens like a blister on the landscape (inside the blister are the students, teeming like bacteria, hungrily feeding off the stored knowledge to gain strength to build their own webs of knowledge…). Underground is a 50-foot deep cavern that can hold 3.5 million books in storage crates, to be retrieved by robots (ok, cranes) within five minutes of a request. Check out this video of how it works. It’s got plonky futuristic music.
Meanwhile, as the University-affiliated meditate on scriptures in this temple of light, residents of the surrounding Hyde Park and other Chicago neighborhoods are fighting to keep their public libraries open.