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Fun Fact: The Robot Librarian

WATCH: The Online Remote Collection Access, aka “ORCA,” at the CSULB Library is a sight to behold!

It’s something out of movies like “iRobot” and “The Terminator.” Did you know at the California State University, Long Beach Library, a technology that is usually used in the aerospace and automobile industry is being employed? That technology is the Online Remote Collection Access system, also known as ORCA.

Since 2008, the ORCA robot has been used to help students retrieve copies of bound academic journals quickly and efficiently. ORCA is the brainchild of CSULB’s librarian, Roman Kochan.

“When I was hired here, the building next door was also a library. It was old and it was taking up space,” Kochan said. “When you see ORCA at work, it’s pretty amazing,” Kochan said.

Housed in a built structure connected to the library, ORCA has 5,100 metal bins stacked in rows of six, going up four stories high. When the robotic book retrieval system locates the desired volume, a crane moves up to retrieve that metal bin. It then lowers and approaches the computer terminal at the front of the room. ORCA is also connected to the library’s computer system so students can reserve books online.

Before ORCA was built, the conundrum for Kochan was clearing away more than 800,000 books into a 3,500 square-foot space. But now, with all of those bookshelves cleared, it has freed up space in the library and serves as a designated study space for students and a new building of faculty offices and classrooms.

And, what’s more, it’s a fun sight seemingly pulled out of a science fiction movie.


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