NYC Public Libraries Now Sort Books by Rube Goldberg Machine
Okay, so it’s actually a rather high-tech conveyor belt/laser scanner combination, but still. It’s two-thirds the size of a football field!
The sorter is housed in the newly renovated Library Services building, a renovated warehouse in Queens. The push to automated sorting was made when the Library found it could no longer recruit a full-time sorting staff. The job was just too boring.
Now, according to Salvatore Magaddino, who “oversees the distribution of materials” for the Library, one seven hour shift with the sorter can do an amount of work that used to take two days with three times the staff. This allows the library to turn around all of its returns and branch requests within 24 hours of them being delivered to the Services Building.
From the New York Times:
On one side of the machine, which is two-thirds the length of a football field and encircled by a conveyor belt, staff members place each book face-down on a separate panel of the belt. The book passes under a laser scanner, which reads the bar code on the back cover, and the sorter communicates with the library’s central computer system to determine where the book should be headed. Then, as the conveyor belt moves along, it drops the book into one of 132 bins, each associated with a branch library.
The NYT has video of the machine in action, with commentary from Mr. Magaddino. The way he pronounces sorter as “sawter” makes this New Jersey native feel at home.
The video can be found here. If we were in charge of it, though, we would have picked slightly different music…
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