Books will make tracks from the underground stacks into the hands of New York Public Library visitors a lot faster next month when the “book train” is up and running.
The state-of-the-art conveyor system that consists of 24 cars and 950 feet of vertical and horizontal tracks is expected to slash the time it takes for books to make it up from the underground storage facility — which is now an average of 45 minutes — to about five minutes, according to library officials.
“It’s a lifeline of information,” connecting catacombs full of books, pamphlet and periodicals in the Milstein Research Stacks under Bryant Park to waiting library patrons in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street at Fifth Avenue, explained Matt Knutzen, Uris director of the humanities and social sciences research divisions.
The conveyor system goes online after Oct. 3, dovetailing with the re-opening of the third floor’s Rose Main Reading Room on Oct. 5 after a two-year restoration and renovation.
Since the conveyor system broke in February, the library has been using a “bucket brigade” system to schlep books up from the underground stacks, said Knutzen. The book train “is a much more reliable system than we’ve had in the past,” as it allows a defective car to be removed while permitting others to keep going, he noted.
And the company that developed the conveyor, TeleDynamics, is nearby in New Jersey, which means it can respond quickly should any major problems arise, Knutzen said.
Gensler, a global architecture, design and planning firm, installed the innovative $2.6 million system, which moves materials through the library at 75 feet-per-minute.
How does it work? A librarian enters requests in a computer which are relayed to workers in the stacks. Stack workers then retrieve requested materials and load them into a car that rolls up, up and away, to its appointed stop. Staff will be trained in how to use the train next week.
Will employees be cautioned not to ride the little cars, which resemble adorable mine trolleys?
Each car has a capacity “of only 30 pounds!” exclaimed Knutzen with a laugh, adding, “that’s all I’m going to say.”