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Oct 18 2013

From medieval to ultra modern—how one robot got its name

It started with a medieval manuscript in a shoebox and ended with an endowment that will support some of the latest in modern library technologies. From an early book to the bookBot—that is the arc of the story of the Hunt Library’s new “Turlibot.”

Linda Turlington’s family had long treasured a fifteenth-century book of meditations that has been passed down from generation to generation. And that family is, as Turlington explains, “completely red and white.” Her husband of almost 40 years, Jimmy, is a 1968 NC State graduate in civil engineering. Her son Ryan obtained his B.S. from the College of Textiles in 2001.  Daughter Courtney earned her B.A. from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2007.

So when the family decided that the Latin manuscript—once laboriously copied out by Carthusian monks—needed a safer long-term home where its treasures could be available to scholars throughout the world, the NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center was a natural choice.

An extension of the family

It was the start of another deep relationship, one that Turlington—CEO and owner of Pura Vida Promotions, a Kernersville-based advertising specialties company focusing on logoed merchandise—insists also feels like an extension of the family.  Though the Turlington family had long supported the Wolfpack Club, this was their first real exposure to the work of the NCSU Libraries.  “Everybody has just been so wonderful,” says Turlington. “And from the very beginning we felt like we belonged with what was going on with the Libraries.”

Now a board member of the Friends of the Library, Turlington has thrown her considerable energy and marketing savvy into ensuring that the Hunt Library will have the impact it promises for the state and the university: “Everybody is going to be amazed at the global outreach this new facility will enable—it will be amazing, all of those who are touched by it.  I probably never have a conversation that I don’t mention what’s going on at NC State because it’s turned into a passion of mine—the reach is going to be incredible.”

“We have been so fortunate”

The signature technologies in the new library especially interested the Turlington family, everything from the giant large-scale visualization walls to the handheld devices and Raspberry Pi’s that future engineers can now check out at will. “We are so fortunate to have these opportunities in North Carolina, especially at NC State,” she concludes.

But the bookBot automated book delivery system was particularly interesting to a family that once kept a medieval manuscript in a shoebox.  So, they seized on one of the Hunt Library naming opportunities, and the “Turlibot”—one of the four robots at the core of the bookBot—will now spend the next decades delivering books and other items to students and faculty.

A lasting legacy

Turlington says that ultimately the most rewarding work she does is to make personal contact with potential supporters, work exemplified in a Hunt Library presentation that she recently helped host for alumni at the Piedmont Club in Winston-Salem, NC, and also at the Foundation Room atop the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.  But the naming of the bookBot robot is also very special.  Seven centuries ago, a monk copied out an enduring monument to learning, the medieval manuscript the family donated to the NCSU Libraries. The Turlington family has put its own mark on a lasting monument to educational achievement: “the bookBot is part of our legacy, and our children will always have something that is permanent at NC State.”