Large Tech

Let’s talk about big tech – physically big, that is. With all the focus on cloud-based tools and other software, it’s easy to forget about the hardware. Here are a few of the most useful, novel, or interesting “large tech” items we’ve seen or heard of in libraries recently. Add your own in the comments!

  • Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems. Probably not on the menu for most law libraries, even the largest, but maybe some of you are on campuses where these are in use. Here’s an example at the University of Chicago – check out the video on that page to see the book robot in action.
  • Smart Whiteboards. There are a few of these on the market: e.g., Vibe Board, Microsoft Surface Hub, Samsung Flip Pro. (Google’s Jamboard will be discontinued next fall.) You can save the notes you write on the screen, or mark up other content; use the touchscreen to navigate around instead of being tied to your own computer; use various apps designed for collaborative work using the board; or even just use it as a regular whiteboard or a regular monitor. My library has purchased a Vibe Board and made it available to students to reserve. Uptake has been slow, though, and its main use has probably been as a monitor for presentations by librarians.
  • Book Vending Machine. Perhaps a solution for your course reserve woes? The library tech company d-tech makes a book vending machine called lendIT, which allows patrons to scan their library cards and select the item they’d like from a screen. The smallest size can hold up to 200 items. I haven’t seen this in use, but a previous employer was considering purchasing one; I’m not sure if they ended up getting it, but it looked pretty cool.
  • Full-Spectrum Sun Lamps. If you’re somewhere that’s sunny and nice in the winter, that’s wonderful for you, but Michigan gets quite bleak. We’ve purchased four sun lamps and placed them all in one of the library’s study areas. Nearly every time I walk by, there’s at least one student bathed in that full-spectrum glow while doing their reading.
  • Charging Pads and Lockers. Charging stations are nothing new, but every time I’ve tried to use one, the cable I need has been broken or in use. Now that most phones and tablets support wireless charging, charging pads or charging lockers could be a more universal and less fragile solution. These could be easy to install near or at library workspaces.

A few items that didn’t make the list, for no reason in particular:

Virtual reality stations, which might be used for training or mooting (the Donald E. Pray Library at the University of Oklahoma College of Law has these, according to their website); the Espresso Book Machine, although despite the optimistic statement at the end of the linked article, content is no longer available for printing; the book sanitizers that some of us probably purchased in 2020; soundproof privacy booths for patrons to take phone calls or have interviews; and my personal dream, massage chairs.