Automated Handling What?!

Come on down to the Central Library for a full-on view of the fun and fantastic new automated handling system or sorter! You can see it in action through a viewing window on Level One. There's another one at the Schlessman Branch Library of which you may catch a glimpse through an open door when passing through.

The sorters are part of the Library's radio frequency identification (RFID) system implemented as part of the Better Denver Bond program. These sorters allow our staff to focus on serving you better. They also provide immediate return of your materials. And the items get back on the shelf faster for the next customer. Check out this video to see how it works.

Written by Michelle on January 10, 2011


Fred Sboddi on January 19, 2011


My guess is the big wigs at the DPL figure that exchanging employees for machines is a way for them to save money and survive. This is certainly at the root of this, ahem...."modernization".

I see library hours being cut back drastically everywhere, library positions vacated and not being re-filled. It is horrendous-- this is a house of public education and knowledge.

Are we to believe this doubtless expensive mechanization is progress? For whom? The companies who profit handsomely to replace human hands with conveyor belts?

I would think that investing in actual human beings, even at minimum wage especially in these financial times, would be a smarter use of money- not only for the DPL, but for our city, and our society in the long run.

Who's going to read and check out books in the future? Only starving people who come to the library to get in from the cold? Or people who can by themselves a hot cross bun from working an honest day's pay?

Oh yeah-- it will be robots.

james on January 20, 2011


No employee at the Denver Public Library has lost their job due to the installation of self check and automated returns systems. As stated in the video and blog, the time spent by staff checking out and returning thousands of items each day has been redirected toward increased customer service to offer personalized help with issues and answer questions.

It is true that the ongoing budget concerns affect hours of operation and staff vacancies. The Library relies heavily on sales tax revenue to fund our collections, staff, building maintenance, and investments in technology. When this source of income is down, all City agencies have to make cuts to their operating budgets. Selective automation and technology enhancements are not meant to replace people working at DPL. They are intended to maintain a high level of efficiency and customer service, while assisting employees by making their jobs safer, and offering them new service opportunities. Redeployed staff that would normally be returning books in a non-public work room may now assist in other areas of the Library to interact directly with customers. One example is the Community Technology Center, where customers get help finding jobs and learning technical skills for surviving in the modern world. With automation improvements, Circulation staff also have more time to assist customers with questions about their account and Library policies, and checking out special materials from other library systems.

While it is true that errors are made by both machines and people, DPL staff strives to deliver the highest level of customer service. Using a combination of automation and staff supervision, it is the Library's goal to increase the turn-around time for returned items in an accurate and safe manner. If an item is unable to be handled by the self check machines, a staff member will happily perform that function for you. Staff also monitor and maintain the automated returns system, manually returning materials the machine does not check back in. Staff must still handle items by placing them on carts and re-shelving. Eliminating the manual return aspect can have a huge impact on employee health. Handling books all day is a tough, physical job with the chance of employee repetitive stress injuries.


I can think of some bored grandparents who would volunteer for free...




I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. You are either a sap or being intentionally misleading. Is there really any doubt that the reason for automating book returns and check outs is to reduce the size of the library's staff over time?No employee at the Denver Public Library has lost their job due to the installation of self check and automated returns systems.

Dave on January 20, 2011


The future is ebooks. 15 million iPads were sold in 9 months, and Barne&Noble sold something like 3 million color nooks just as Christmas gifts. No clue how many Kindles and other readers are out here.
I do not presently check out Ebooks from DPL, but intend to start
plus, DPL has huge circulation numbers on DVDs, and with Netflix and other similar services, the video circulation numbers will drop also.
I am actually writing this from a DPL branch now .. Only come here about every other month while my car is being worked on nearby .. And I Have NEVER seen so many people here with laptops using wifi as this time.
The world is changing .. Whether you choose to accept that or not.
DPL will have to adapt as these changes come.
I have no clue how any of this will affect my many friends on the DPL staff, but I do have some worry for them
(written from my iPad at Byers branch)

Charles M. Fraden on January 23, 2011


Response to the Library's reply:

Of course no librarian has been fired because of the employment of machine technology.

Great SPIN control.

But unless your head is in a library book bag, you also
know that the DPL has virtually put a freeze on new hiring- the system is not replacing the employees that are leaving. This seems to be verifiable by the shrinking staff numbers everywhere. Need help downtown? Go to one of those "convenient" wall phones-- reminds me of paging at the airport.

And dollars to missing donuts, any regular patron will also be quite aware that most branches are closed 3 out of 7 days of the week, and opening later and closing earlier when it is open. This alone is indicative of a very sick system.

The Virginia Village branch will be closed for SIX MONTHS. I watched as two other branch libraries were closed for months at a time--- to fancy them up, put in new carpets, re-design the "atmosphere" at a system wide cost of MILLIONS.

Hey great. We should all start eating dinner in these places, except McDonalds has way better hours.

It has been apparently effortless for the DPL to raise money to buy all kinds of STUFF. Lovely.

When I asked last year why the library had money to hire a crack team of interior designers-- but didn't have the money to actually stay open- (kind of Monty Python like... "Just look how great it looks through the window!") I was told--- "...Separate bond issues. We can't use the money except to hire contractors."

I don't consider this GREAT LIBRARY MANAGEMENT.

I consider this pathetic and poor focus on what people really need. The heads of the DPL should be screaming at the city and county of Denver, government, fund raisers, and the community- to get money for what is


Again, if it's a waste of a trained librarian to check books in and out, I would expect the same kind of people that are desperate to flip hamburgers would not have any objection to that kind of work, and I guarantee that it would be considerably safer than working for eight hours in front of a dangerously hot hamburger grill, or shoveling an icy sidewalk, or for that matter, freezing in sub zero weather on that same sidewalk because they can't afford a place to live.

When I see the same efforts given to increasing library hours, increasing staff, and increasing inventory as I've the efforts I've seen to laying new carpets and sprucing up the interiors-- which invariably we are being given less and less access to-- then I'll be impressed.

Till then, I'm not at all impressed by all the "innovations" and "improvements". This is all icing on a falling cake.

-C.M. Fraden

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