Temple University has unveiled plans for a sleek, new $190 million library that will span a city block and serve as an anchor in the heart of the North Philadelphia campus.

The 210,000-square-foot library - which will rise at the current site of Barton Hall, between Liacouras Walk and 13th Street - will replace Paley Library, which will be retooled as a welcome center, with a cafe, classrooms, and gathering spaces.

A rendering by the architectural firm Snøhetta shows a futuristic expanse with a sweeping front arch, a green roof, and an outdoor balcony offering cross-campus views.

The library will include a "robotic text-retrieval system," which is just what it sounds like. Students will order a book online and a crane with a robotic arm will go into stacks of tightly packed bins to retrieve it.

"It will not be the book warehouse you or I used when we were in school," Temple president Neil D. Theobald told the university's board of trustees on Tuesday. "Temple has partnered with Snøhetta, one of the world's most innovative library architectural firms. . . . Our plan is to create a bold new library - a place for truly collaborative learning."

Temple had intended to put the new library on North Broad Street, but scrapped that idea in favor of a central location. The plan released Tuesday includes input from the Temple community given through a website and at group sessions, the university said.

"I believe libraries and their role in teaching, learning, and research are and always will be central to the university experience," Theobald said in a statement. "The location of our new library reflects my vision of its centrality. Temple's academic heart will be where it belongs, at the core."

Construction on the library, which will be funded with $140 million in state aid and $50 million in university funds, will begin late next year and conclude in 2018, the university said.

The library will be bounded by Polett Walk to the south, Liacouras Walk to the west, Norris Street to the north and a new large green space planned for the east.

Snøhetta is designing the library in partnership with Stantec, a Philadelphia-based firm. The library will feature quiet study and reading spaces, larger meeting rooms, and areas for special events and technology-related activities such as data visualization and 3-D printing, said Joseph P. Lucia, Temple's dean of libraries, in a statement.

The robotic retrieval system will include about two million volumes, stored in bins stacked three stories high, said Margaret Carney, university architect. When a student orders a book, one of three robotic cranes will go down the narrow aisles and retrieve the appropriate bin. Each bin will store about 100 books.

"A person then opens the box, picks up a book, and hands it to a student," she said. "The whole transaction takes a couple minutes."

University officials like the system because it frees up a lot of space in the library. Only about 180,000 volumes will be on the floor, she said.

Other universities have similar systems. The University of Louisville's system can hold up to 1.2 million volumes. Each robot (crane) weighs 6,900 pounds and can carry a bin that weighs up to 500 pounds.

In the University of Chicago's library, huge robotic cranes retrieve the books from bins stacked five stories beneath the main reading room.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City's Miller Nichols Library offers a video, showing its robot, affectionately nicknamed Roobot by students, in action.

See Roobot at: http://library.umkc.edu/newmnl/about-robot

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