A unique feature of the Oviatt Library is the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) in the east wing, the first ever ASRS for libraries.
The ASRS consists of 13,260 steel bins, each 2' x 4', on a rack structure that occupies an 8000 sq. ft. room forty feet high. The ceiling of the room is at the level of the ceiling of the main floor of the Library. The bins are arranged on both sides of six aisles, each of which has a "mini-load crane" guided by rails at top and bottom.
Older periodicals (all before 1990 except for a limited number of very high use titles) and books that have been used infrequently are stored in the bins. Their bar codes are mapped to their bin locations in the ASRS Manager computer system. The capacity of the ASRS is 1.7 million volumes.
Requests for retrieval of ASRS items are submitted via the Library catalog, and are transmitted electronically to the ASRS Manager, which directs the automatic crane in the appropriate aisle to deliver the bin to a pickup station on the mezzanine at main floor level. The approximate location of the book in the bin is displayed on a terminal at the pickup station, along with author, title, and bar code.
The last two digits of the bar code of each book were written on the top edge when it was stored, allowing the ASRS operator to find the book easily. The operator reads the bar code in the book with a barcode scanner to confirm that it has been picked up, and delivers the book to the Guest Services desk.
Time from initial request to availability at the Guest Services desk is under ten minutes.
In the Northridge Earthquake on January 17, 1994 almost 100% of the library's open shelf collection was dumped on the floor. Not one book in the ASRS was damaged. No bin was in danger of falling.