The John C. Hitt Library, the very first building at the University of Central Florida, is undergoing a major renovation over the course of the next five years.
Students may have noticed the ongoing construction that is taking place on the north side of the library facing the Student Union. Construction began August of this year and will be conducted in three phases over the estimated five-year span for completion.
Perhaps the most exciting transformation the library will undergo is the installation of the automated retrieval center, the construction of which is being headed by Dematic, Inc.
The first phase consists of constructing the four-story building on the north side of the library. Three stories will contain the ARC, a system which will hold 1.25 million volumes of the library’s print collection. The fourth floor will serve as a space for student work that will overlook the heart of UCF — the Student Union.
“Materials will be stored in bins, which will be retrieved by a crane when a library user makes a request using the online catalog," said Meg Scharf, associate director for communication, assessment and public relations at UCF. "When the user clicks on the request, the crane brings the bin to a staffed area and library staff pull the requested item from the bin.”
Students can submit their request via the online catalog and receive and check out the books at the circulation desk as they normally would. However, with the ARC, students will be able to watch as the massive crane system, which will contain five robotic arms systematically maneuvers throughout the temperature and humidity controlled building to the precise bin that holds their selection.
About 6,942 bins will be installed in the first phase and they will be stacked 36 high in specially made metal racks, holding approximately 100 books in each bin. The process to receive a book once it has been requested is estimated to take anywhere between 5-10 minutes.
“The software system that runs the automated storage and retrieval system knows exactly where that book is.” said Mike Cirello, Dematic Inc., senior account manager for the Orlando location.
The ability to request items electronically and pick them up within minutes eliminates the user’s frustration at searching the aisles and floors of the library for the text they need. Transferring the library's stock into the ARC will free up space for an additional 1,600 seats for students to utilize. An estimated 300,000 new and frequently used books will remain on the shelves.
The library will remain open for the duration of the project. Throughout that time, some areas may be closed off for use but will be moved to a different location to accommodate student needs.
“I don’t think the renovations are too distracting," said Matt Hyland, sophomore film major. "They give me something to look at when I walk to class."
Future phases of the project will include a complete renovation of the library's existing structure, including renovated bathrooms and stairwells and upgraded elevators. To serve students' academic needs there will also be the addition of more group study rooms, an expanded special collections and exhibit area, an estimated additional 3,264 seats to be installed, and a conversion of the fifth floor to a new quiet study area.
“The ARC will create space for exciting new areas in the existing structure of the John C. Hitt Library,” Scharf said. “Signs describing the progress [are] in the library elevators and will be updated as the project moves forward."
There are no start dates at this time as to when Phase 2 will begin and what each phase will consist of, but the ARC is expected to be complete in early 2018.
Originally published Nov. 23, 2016.