The library: A sanctuary of serene concentration, a respite from the chaos of campus life, a fortress of focus and freedom of thought.  Here is where students come to conquer the mountain ranges of Academia – some for solitary study, and others to collaborate with cohorts.  Suddenly, the quiet hum is disrupted by a horrible raucous racket, penetrating through thought, conversation, even noise-cancelling headphones; a sound so offensive to the human ear that faces squinch as heads turn toward the sound.

What monster could create such a roar?

None other than an innocent library cart, carrying its load of knowledge across a sea of red O’Neil Ford bricks embedded into the floor.

The librarian, or student worker, pushing the cart smiles sheepishly at their audience of on-lookers, silently mouthing ‘sorry’ as they desperately search for the nearest stretch of carpet or smooth floor.  How can such an essential tool to the running of a library be such a beast!?  Well, it’s not the cart’s fault, nor the pusher of the cart.  It’s the fault of the bricks, so safe and self-satisfied in their iconic existence.

Library workers have long tried to work around this ponderous problem, riding elevators from floor to floor and cutting through offices taking long circuitous routes in order to encounter as few bricks as possible, like playing a game of ‘The Floor is Lava’ (with the bricks being the evil fiery culprit). As the library has grown and changed, the ‘secret’ routes have become less accessible as random cart paths, and some areas are just simply impossible to get to without stepping in the lava.

Engineering Department to the Rescue

Which is why in Spring of 2018 when the Engineering Department called for project ideas, that it occurred to me to present the idea of the Ultimate Library Cart to the student engineering teams – the main objective to produce a cart that is quiet on bricks.  As the library Circulation Team began to prepare our presentation, we decided to address other problems with the carts as well:  they are not particularly ergonomic, they are hard to steer, and so heavy that smaller workers sometimes have to partially unload a cart in order to be able to push it.  The carts also tip over easily (just ask the Facilities Services guys who had to retrieve books from the bottom of the elevator shaft).

The big day came to present our plan to Senior Engineering Majors. Among some of the other very high-tech presentations, our library carts seemed rather simple, but also important because they were affecting the safety of people and disturbing the peace. In the end, we got not one, but TWO teams of students who agreed to build. As a result, we ended up with two very different and fabulous prototypes.

Cart Teams - The Senior Design Projects

Library Cartel Design

One cart is lightweight and tall, with excellent ergonomics.  A person would never have to repeatedly bend over when using it because all the shelves are set at a strategically ergonomic height.  This cart is ideal for shelving our DVD collection for two reasons:  1) our DVD’s fit perfectly on its slightly tilted narrow shelves, and 2) it is QUIET on the bricks!  There is NO WAY to not step in the lava on your way to the DVD shelves, so this cart is perfect for the task.

Wheel on Bricks

Carter IV Design

The other cart is a dream for anyone who dreads pushing around a heavy cart of books.  Why?  It runs all by itself.  You just turn on the motor and hit a switch.  With the toggle of another switch, you can send it in a new direction, or pause the movement while you shelve a book.  And it is also QUIET on the bricks!

So thank you to our two senior engineering teams who have made the library a more peaceful place by helping us conquer the beast of the bricks!