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Automated Sorting

San Jose Public Library

Problem Statement

At most of our locations, a great deal of staff time is required to unload book drops, check in material, and sort it onto carts for shelving. Time spent on these low-level, backroom tasks means that staff can’t be out on the public floor serving customers directly.


SJPL won a grant from the California State Library to install an automated sort machine (affectionately called Thumper by staff) at our Vineland branch. Now, customers return items into Thumper via an outside drop, and receive instant check-in and optional return receipt. Materials are sorted into a variety of bins, chosen by the branch staff who know best, for loading onto carts. Unreadable barcodes or other check-in problems are dropped into a separate bin for staff handling.


Our customers are delighted at the instant check-in of their materials – no need to wait for staff to catch up on piles of returned items. The check-in receipt gives them confidence that we’ve cleared all items off their records, and the time between an item’s return and its availability on shelf for the next customer is considerably shortened. Direct customer service has seen an improvement as well; more staff are available to assist customers face-to face, plan programming, and make community contacts.