At most libraries books are hand-sorted by library staff and unpaid volunteers. The NYPL was having problems because of the large volume of books being processed, and they had difficulty finding people to do the work. They have now installed a $2.3 million book-sorting machine that operates like an automated airport baggage carousel.
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.
A video at the link explains that books can now reach their rerouted destination in one day instead of two, and that this is accomplished with about one-third the previous number of human employees.
Link. Photo credit Uli Seit.