An $81 million library opened Monday at the University of Chicago.
And there’s not a book in sight.
Designed by architect Helmut Jahn, the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library provides 180 seats for students and faculty to study under a glass dome constructed from 691 panels, none of them exactly the same shape. The library also expands digitization and conservation operations for the university’s collections, which include a piece of a Gutenberg Bible and books printed on papyrus, ancient Egypt’s version of paper.
Fifty feet below ground on the Hyde Park campus, a system of five automated cranes retrieves and stores volumes that are sorted according to book size, not content. The new library has room for 3.5 million volumes in the underground area, which is not accessible to anyone but select library staff.