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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Students fret over getting trapped in stacks at Library West

Library West’s electronic bookcases look like a trap from an Indiana Jones movie set.

However, most UF students aren’t as fearless as American icon Harrison Ford.

Some UF students who first meander through the bookcases at Library West are concerned that they will get stuck, squished or smashed in between them.

Stephanie Moses was scared she would get stuck in the bookcases that towered over her.

“You don’t usually check for someone,” said Moses, an 18-year-old biology freshman, who first discovered the cases this semester.

Moses said she was scared to go in and out of the aisles, and it took a few times moving the cases before she got used to them.

The contraption is all in the name of saving space.

The metal cases sit side-by-side like a set of dominos, and they’re so close that the shelves from one case touch the shelves of the other.

The electronic cases are installed into the ground, and each case moves to the right or left after a button is pressed. This creates a walkway in between so people can search through the shelves.

Only a few aisles can be created at once because they are so compressed. Library visitors often move multiple cases to get the space between one shelf and another open.

Some have gotten hurt because they weren’t paying attention.

Chris Perez, 19, a book stacks personnel at Library West, said his boss saw a girl panic and run down the bookcases as they closed in on her more than a year ago. She scratched her arms on the corners of the books, he said.

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“People can get stuck, but no one can get seriously hurt,” the industrial and systems engineering sophomore added.

Warning stickers, meant to remind visitors to check the aisle before pressing the button, were tacked onto the ends of the cases during Spring 2012.

A warning sound goes off every time a case begins to move.

Perez said the beep is loud and high-pitched, but people wearing headphones may not hear anything.

There are four motion sensors on each case — two at each end.

Perez said the girl was near the middle of the aisle as it was closing.

The electronic cases at Library West were installed five years ago and have broken several times, said Edward Hart, technician at the Legal Information Center at UF.

It takes about six seconds to calmly walk from the middle of the aisle to one of the ends.

The bookcase closes about 15 seconds after the button is pressed.

“There’s plenty of time to get out,” Perez said.

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