Cheap Thrills: Hoover Library’s Mechanical Book Return/Sorter

Not as tasty as watching doughnuts, but calorie free

If you are the type that is mezmerized by the Krispy Kreme doughnut conveyor belt, here’s a new thrill for you. The Hoover Public Library has installed a mechanized book return system that’s almost as much fun as a gumball machine.

Each item has to be placed individually through the slot and onto the conveyor belt (the one negative feature if you’re toting a pile of books) and you can watch a monitor as each item is shuttled to the proper station. DVDs and CDs are zipped to the first bin, books are moved further down the line for sorting into other bins.

This is a total paradigm shift for those of us (ahem) who recall the days when a librarian stamped every book’s return card with a due date. The stamping process looked like the most exciting and technological aspect of a librarian’s job back then. Now the librarians are getting the last laugh, both with the book return and with the self-checkout kiosks that leave them available to assist with special requests and the many special events we are spoiled to expect now.

Your kids will enjoy “feeding” the book return, but you know in your heart you will be compelled to watch those books and other media roll all the way out of sight.