Here’s how it works: Returning books


How it works: In a series of blog posts we try to make the library more understandable to our users. What’s happening in the library? What is the purpose of different machines? What rules are there and why? Read and get some explanations and tips regarding the library!

The foundation of the whole idea of Library is to borrow the books, nowadays libraries do (and are) a lot of other things as well, but to borrow books to people is often seen as the library core. The term borrowing something implies that you also need to return the same something: A borrowed book must be returned. In recent years, the management of this aterlamning(returning books) are increasingly taken over by machines. Today we’re going show you the library’s automated book return machine.

At the outside of the library (but inside the university building) is a green treadmill sticking out from a hole in the wall. This is the public part of the automated book return machine. This is where you return your borrowed book. You place the book on the treadmill and the book disappears into the wall. But what happens then? The following film is shot while standing opposite the position where you return the book:

The book continues on the treadmill, and is then sorted into one of five carriages depending on which floor the book should be located on. Which of the five carriages that is right for your book is decided by information about the books location in the library, stored in a chip inside the book. The initial sort is only a rough sorting, the staff at the library sorts each of the carriages more thoroughly, before the books are placed on the right shelf in the library again.

One of sorting carriages is for books that there’s a “problem” with. Books that are returned way passed the due date of the loan, or books that are reserved by someone else. These books require manual intervention and are always handled by staff at the library.

The automated book return machine also activates the alarm on all returned (the alarm is deactivated when you borrow a book).

The automated book return machine at our library is quite small, it only has five differens sorting carriages. At other, bigger libraries the machines can have many more sorting possibilities – for example: Check out this film from Boulder Public Library that has a rather big sorting machine.

Text, picture and movie: Katharina Nordling