The new Silver Lake library reinvents the book drop off

By Todd Walker

When visitors enter the new Silver Lake Branch Library for the first time today, they will be greeted with Richard Neutra-inspired architecture, a display of quotes by former and current Silver Lake luminaries – including Anais Nin and Beck -and Mayor Antonio Villaragosa, who will be on hand to cut the ribbon.

What has the librarians most excited, though, is the branch’s innovative new book-return sorting system. “It’s called an automated sorting technology, or A.S.T. for short,” says Giovanna Mannino, Assistant Director of Information Technologies for the public library system.

When a book is dropped into the return slot, it lands on a conveyor belt. The A.S.T. then reads a radio frequency identification tag that has been installed in every item, communicates with the library’s circulation system, and sorts the items into one of five bins: children’s, adult, audio-visual, hold items and “exceptions,” such as items belonging to another library. It is manufactured by Techlogic, and is already in use in Seattle, Santa Monica, and Queens, New York. (Watch the video below to see a heavy-duty sorting system at work.)

“It relieves the librarians from doing the more mundane tasks in the back room and allows them to spend more time at the desk with the patrons,” explains Mannino. “It also helps avoid repetitive stress injuries involved with checking books back in. Silver Lake is the pilot project. If it works here it may be implemented at other branches around the city.”

Visitors will be able to observe the system at work in a glass room off the library lobby. It has apparently been quite an attraction in other cities where the system is in use.

“Children love it,” says Mannino. “It’s like watching your car go through the car wash.”

– Todd Walker is a writer and filmmaker living in Echo Park.

Related link:
* The Silver Lake Library grand opening will be held at 10 am. LAPL
* New Silver Lake Library designed with community in mind. LA Times
* Watch books ride a super-sized sorter and conveyor belt:

Photo from Curbed LA

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