New York Public Library's New Library Services Center Features World's Largest Automated Sorter of Library Materials

New York, NY, April 22, 2010--

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The world's largest automated sorter of library materials, a 238 foot, room-sized system of conveyors, lasers, computers and book bins is among the key features of The New York Public Library's new Library Services Center, a 145,000 square foot facility in Long Island City, Queens. The building, a state-of-the art complex which opens with a ceremony today, brings together the library divisions that acquire, prepare, preserve and distribute library materials. By unifying previously dispersed departments in a building with the latest technology and custom-designed systems, the Library is able to gain new levels of efficiency in processing and preserving materials that range from the new books found on library shelves to rare and unique items from special collections.  The four-level facility houses some 260 staff members and features the Library's Division of Collections and Circulation Operations; a digital imaging center; a manuscripts and archives processing area; departments of the Barbara Goldsmith Preservation Division; and exhibitions workshops. The Library Services Center is located at 31-11 Thomson Avenue in Long Island City.

"Our intention was to create the best suite of spaces in America for library preservation laboratories, for digital scanning, and for book and manuscript processing and distribution.  And I think we succeeded in doing just that," said Library President Paul LeClerc. "This facility also marks the first phase of our Central Library Project. Unifying these divisions in Long Island City prepares us to move forward with our plan to open a dramatic state-of-the-art research and circulating library in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue."

Designed by Gensler Architects, the Library Services Center was built in an existing warehouse building, which was extensively adapted for use by the Library. The $50 million project was paid for with a combination of public and private funding. Public support was provided by the City of New York: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and the New York City Council.

"The art of preserving, storing and showcasing library materials has come a long way in a short time," said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg "We're committed to making investments in our libraries to help them embrace new technologies and expand services for New Yorkers, and the new, state-of-the-art Library Services Center in Long Island City is a great example of that."

"At the City Council we are very pleased to support new ideas and approaches that improve the ways our libraries provide their important services", said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. "The innovative new features of the Library Services Center make sure that the public gets books and other materials more quickly and that library collections are prepared and preserved in the most efficient and effective manner possible."

Automated Book Sorter

When a book located at a branch in mid-town is requested by a library user in the Bronx, for example, the volume must go through a sorting process to reach its final destination. In fiscal year 2009, the Library sorted nearly 11 million items by hand. The Library's new automated book sorter, manufactured by FKI Logistex, sorts 7,500 items per hour, doubling the capacity of materials the library can process with the same staff on a daily basis and decreasing the patron wait time for requested items. Once a volume is placed on the 238-foot sorter, its bar code is read by a laser scanner. Based on patron request information from the Library's catalog system, the item is automatically routed to a bin set for delivery to one of the Library's 90 sites. When the bin arrives at the local branch, all its contents are automatically checked in through a single barcode scan. It is estimated that this feature will save 60,000 hours per year of staff time.

Collections and Circulation Operations

The Collections and Circulations Operations division coordinates the acquisition, cataloging, circulation and delivery of library materials, plus management of the Integrated Library System (the library's computerized catalog and circulation system). In addition to office and staff space for these administrative functions on the Center's first floor, the Library Services Center includes the automated sorter, a new loading dock, materials lifts, and spaces for preparing new materials before they are delivered to library sites.

Manuscripts and Archives and Special Formats Processing

Large collections of manuscripts and archival materials as well as materials in special formats are processed in bright spacious quarters with large workstations on the Center's second floor. Additionally there is extensive stack space with 10,000 linear feet of shelving for storage of collections being processed. All rooms on this floor benefit from filtered, temperature and humidity controlled air provided by the building's new HVAC system. The Library's Manuscripts and Archives Division comprises unique papers and records of individuals, families, and organizations. The Special Formats Processing unit is responsible for the cataloging of the Library's special collections, including rare books, photographs, prints, posters, printed ephemera, music scores, maps, theater scripts, set designs, and prompt books. Staff of the unit also prepare these materials for digitization.

Barbara Goldsmith Preservation Division

The Barbara Goldsmith Preservation Division cares for the Library's permanent assets in all formats. The Division preserves both the artifacts that comprise the Library's vast and diverse collections as well as their intellectual content. The work done by Preservation Division staff significantly contributes to the long-term survival of the Library's renowned collections. Several units of the Division have moved into large custom-designed spaces on the third floor, including a new special collections conservation laboratory and general collections care laboratory. All spaces where special collections materials are processed, imaged, or preserved have controlled environments. The special collections conservation laboratory has custom-designed lab benches, light tables, and dedicated areas for wet conservation work, dirty work (leather and wood), and disaster recovery. It also features highly specialized equipment such as a light-bleaching apparatus and a drying oven. The suite includes a secure storage room for collection material awaiting treatment. Services of the Library Registrar, a section of the Preservation Division, have also been relocated to this area.

Digital Imaging Unit

The Library's Digital Imaging Unit creates electronic access to NYPL collections for broader distribution to the public, and for preservation of the physical artifact. It The creates images of approximately 50,000 collection items per year, which are accessible to the public via the online Digital Gallery. The DIU features seven digital capture stations including three flat bed scanners, three cameras with Phase 1 digital backs and an automatic book scanner. In addition to digitizing individual items for the Digital Gallery, the DIU digitizes books and other materials for patrons. Its new home provides expansive quarters with individual custom-designed areas for each photographic capture station as well as a spacious area for quality control and scanning. 


The Library's Exhibitions program has also moved its installation staff and mountmaking and frame shops to to the Center to prepare the materials for exhibitions in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

Other Features

A lunchroom seating 58 has been constructed on the sunny south side of the first floor, with an adjacent smaller quiet room. A smaller lounge has been built on the lower level. In good weather, tables and benches will be available on the roof, where there is an impressive view of big sky and Manhattan beyond. 

There are two training rooms on the first floor with 22 computers for staff training and development.

Library Services Center – Construction

Design and construction of the Library Services Center involved major work over two years to adapt the existing building. Extensive structural work involved removal of some existing ramps in order to increase usable space in the building. A ramp leading from Skillman Avenue on the north side of the building was retained for access to the roof, where NYPL's shipping truck fleet will now park. Additionally, this ramp provides secure direct access to the third floor of the building. The exterior façade was upgraded by masonry rehabilitation and weatherproofing, as well as all new insulating windows, which have been UV-coated. 

The conversion of the building involved the installation of three new transformers by Con Edison to bring adequate power to the building. All the electrical wiring is new, and the building is fully fitted out with a fire alarm system and a telecommunications system incorporating Internet Protocol telephones, computers for staff, and full wireless Internet service. The security system controls access to all high-security areas by means of card readers, with on-staff security staff monitoring activity by means of closed circuit TV. 

A new, high-performance HVAC system was installed in the building, providing comfort for staff and controlled temperature and humidity for collection materials, as well as fine filtering of air with carbon filters. The building features sprinklers for fire protection, and new ADA-compliant men's and women's toilet rooms are located on each level. The existing elevator has been rehabilitated, and a new one installed. 

All floors have been fitted out with offices and open-office workstations. All new furniture has been purchased and installed. The lighting was carefully designed to create a pleasant working environment. Walls are brightly colored with a key color for each floor. 

About The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library was created in 1895 with the consolidation of the private libraries of John Jacob Astor and James Lenox with the Samuel Jones Tilden Trust. The Library provides free and open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. Its renowned research collections are located in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem; and the Science, Industry and Business Library at 34th Street and Madison Avenue. Eighty-eight branch libraries provide access to circulating collections and a wide range of other services in neighborhoods throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 50 million items. In addition, each year the Library presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs, which include classes in technology, literacy, and English for speakers of other languages. All in all The New York Public Library serves18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at


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