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Smarter libraries deliver greater knowledge

Updated: 2024-02-26 08:25 ( XINHUA )
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Beijing residents spend a Sunday reading at the recently opened Beijing Library in Tongzhou district in January. PENG ZIYANG/XINHUA

How long does it take for a reader to get a book after placing an order in a library of over 8 million?

The answer from a new library in suburban Beijing is less than 15 minutes.

Located in the eastern district of Tongzhou, Beijing Library has become a popular destination since it opened in late December. It received over 80,000 visits during the three-day New Year holiday.

Book lovers are attracted not only by the library's architectural design, which resembles a reading space under giant ginkgo trees, but also by its abundant collection of books and smart services.

Covering some 75,000 square meters, Beijing Library houses over 8 million books. The towering stacks on the library's basement floor contribute to its massive capacity. They are part of the largest single automated storage and retrieval system, also known as AS/RS, for books in China.

The stacks have a total storage area of less than 3,000 sq m, yet they can store up to 7.1 million books largely due to their special design. Such a huge repository would require a storage area of at least 10,000 sq m in a traditional library.

In addition to the stacks, the smart system includes various types of smart equipment like robots, which enable intelligent book delivery and auxiliary sorting.

"The automated book storage and retrieval system functions like the smart brain of the library, enabling an array of highly efficient services that reduce manual labor," says Shi Qi, general manager of the AS/RS business unit of Jiatu Technology, the smart reading service provider responsible for the design of Beijing Library's AS/RS.

Beijing Library is not alone in adopting innovative storage methods. The Suzhou No 2 Library, which opened in late 2019, was the first Chinese library to embrace the smart book storage and retrieval system.

"As more local governments place enriching cultural life high on their agenda, we are seeing growing interest from public libraries to introduce the smart storage and retrieval system," Shi says.

To make borrowing books easier, visitors to Beijing Library can register for a seamless borrowing service empowered by facial recognition and other technologies. A digital guide at the library's entrance also offers on-demand interactions with visitors.

Readers who want to avoid travel to the library can use the online borrowing service, which will deliver the book to their doorstep. The library's online borrowing service is open to readers not only in Beijing but also in neighboring Tianjin and Hebei province.

"It's quite a refreshing experience to visit the library," says Meng Fan, a local sixth-grader. "The books here enrich your mind, and some of the smart services here can blow your mind."

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