Field Trip!

Today we got a respite from the heat at CSV (our A/C is broken… it reached 89 degrees inside).  Well, only three of us escaped; the rest were stuck working. 

Our new library will be getting an automated materials handling system (AMHS), so library administration thought that it would be a good idea to have some of us look at various AMHS to get an idea of how they work, how they’ll change things, etc.  So today we visited two different libraries with two different AMHS.  Each of the AMHS had positives and negatives.  I got a lot of information from each visit, and it’s definitely easier to picture what staffing will look like in the new library.  Here’s what we found.

Library 1

  • 4 intakes total (3 for main system, 1 unattached in parking garage)
  • When all 3 are going at once, there are traffic jams
  • There are 11 bins, but more may be added as space allows
  • System is fully enclosed so employees cannot reach in without stopping the AMHS first
  • Internal cameras allow employees to see inside
  • Sorting bins attach to AMHS with very powerful magnets.  The magnets also act as sensors to tell when the bin is not in proper position.
  • Each bin has sensors to tell when it is full.  Sometimes the bin thinks it’s full when it’s not because the machine drops everything so neatly into the bin.  The bin is really only half full, so someone must redistribute the materials on occasion.
  • When bins are full or are being changed, materials are sent to the “reject/other” bin
  • They have RFID, which we will not have.  This allows certain AV items to be handled once, while we’ll have to open and check for the correct number of items on each.
  • The system was very quiet because it uses conveyor belts instead of rollers
  • Materials are handled twice because they are rough sorted into bins, which must then be sorted onto shelving carts.
  • Holds, items for other libraries, and other problems are dumped into the “other/reject” bin to be checked again

Library 2

  • There are 3 intakes total, plus 4 “old fashioned” drops
  • There are 21 bins total
  • AMHS has a combination of rollers and something else that’s not quite a roller, but not quite a belt.  Paperbacks, magazines, and bagged items tend to jam inside. 
  • Jams happen about once per day.
  • The system is not enclosed, so employees can reach in at any time without stopping the AMHS first.  This has caused one injury already.  The same employee who was injured was seen reaching in without stopping the AMHS today (again).
  • There are two types of sorts: bins and ergonomic trolleys
  • Bins are “dumb”. They have no sensors and function like old fashioned bookdrop bins.
  • AMHS does not sense when bins are not there.  System must be shut down to trade out bins, or items will drop onto the floor.  2 items dropped onto a staff person who was troubleshooting the staff CPU/intake.
  • Ergonomic trolleys are “smart”.  They have sensors which tell the AMHS to let the trolley go.  It attaches with powerful magnets.
  • Trolleys have motorized parts which require rechargeable batteries.
  • AMHS stacks materials onto the trolleys, so no additional handling is required.
  • Staff must still verify that the right items are inside AV cases
  • System is easily reprogrammed
  • Most common problem reason for a tech visit was to replace exterior screen and printer.  They have direct sunlight for most of the day, which causes a great deal of damage.

Tips from the libraries

  • Make sure you don’t have carpet in the AMHS room
  • At least one employee must be in the AMHS room at all times, but they can multitask (answer phones, change bins, etc)
  • Keep extra bins/trolleys close by to make changes quicker
  • AMHS sorts based on location code, not on call number
  • Use adult/senior volunteers to verify AV items
  • Only schedule staff to be in the AMHS room for one hour at a time to cut down on repetitive stress injuries
  • Make sure the A/C works or the AMHS room will be unbearable
  • Ask trainers to stay for longer than you think you need – questions will arise and they’ll end up coming back anyway.
  • The public doesn’t like to feed in one item at a time.  They complain that it takes too much time.  It might be a good idea to keep the manual drop open too.
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