NYC Library Defending Title as Fastest Book Sorter


In a field that requires quiet time and attention, two American libraries will compete this week for which one sorts books and other items faster.

The New York Public Library must defend its title as the world’s quickest library-sorting system against Washington state’s King County Library System near Seattle. On Tuesday morning, mechanized conveyor belts in both libraries will start rolling for one hour.

“The adrenaline is outta control,” said Salvatore Magaddino, a retired New York City police captain whose library job includes finding high-tech ways to manage materials. He’ll start a multimillion-dollar sorting conveyor belt that reads bar-coded items and has a nickname: the Sorter. Similar technology — dubbed the “Tin Man” — is used in King County.

At last year’s fourth annual contest, New York took the title by coming in with 12,570 in an hour — 702 more than the Seattle-area team. The two competitors are tied at 2-2.

An infrared chamber sets off plates on the belt to steer items into crates going to branches around the city. Magaddino said that librarians once spent hours each day moving items from shelves and packing them for delivery.