This New Library Of The Future Brings You Your Books Via Robot

The new James B. Hunt Library at North Carolina State University shows what can happen when you marry a library with cutting-edge technology and interesting design–plus an automated librarian.


In a digital age where many commentators tolled the death knell for the book-bound library, we’ve reported time and time again that the libraries of the future are the ones that react and adapt to new technology, not run from it.


A library that’s recently opened embodies this philosophy. The James B. Hunt Library at North Carolina State University blends novel technology with exciting design by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta.

The most exciting new feature in the library is probably the bookBot, a robotic book-delivery system that will automatically retrieve books for students once they select them from a virtual catalog. The books will be stored in 18,000 underground bins, in high-density shelving units that can hold 2 million volumes in one-ninth the space of normal shelves.

“Within minutes of receiving a request, one of the bookBot’s robotic cranes retrieves the requested material and delivers it to an operator, who sends it on to the “Ask Us” center or to other library locations on campus via a rapid delivery service,” reads the bookBot website. That kind of technology has been used in manufacturing for years, but it’s finally entering the world of research libraries. Viewers can even watch the cranes in action in one section of the library.


Other technological and architectural highlights include:

  • Students working on prototypes will have access to the uPrint and Makerbot 3-D printers, in a designated Makerspace.
  • Researching videogames? A designated Game Lab supports the scholarly study of digital games and offers a place to take a break and play for fun.”
  • The next generation of digital media can be explored through five massive Christie MicroTiles (basically, large projections that turn a wall into one huge video image).
  • Architectural features include plenty of natural light and “‘disruptive’ learning spaces [where] colorful, dynamic furnishings exist beside more traditional study rooms.’ “

About the author

Zak Stone is a Los Angeles-based writer and a contributing editor of Playboy Digital. His writing has appeared in,, Los Angeles, The Utne Reader, GOOD, and elsewhere. Visit his personal website here.