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The Library Robots of Oodi

March 21 2021
An RFID tag being put on a book.
An RFID tag being put on a book.

We’ve talked before about library cats and library dogs, but have you ever heard of library robots? Though most libraries won’t be able to afford them for quite some time, they may become a common sight in the future.

At the moment, to see library robots in action, you have to travel to Helsinki Public Library’s Oodi branch to see them. Oodi has three different kinds of robots in their employ, each meant to take over different time-consuming tasks to leave their human counterparts more time to do the parts of librarian-ing that require more critical thinking:

Checking books are shelved correctly

On top of carrying books around, these little guys also do a critical job for the smooth running of the library: making sure that all the books on the library shelves are in the right order so that people can find them. They do this by way of reading something called an RFID tag, which stores information about the book.

RFID tags use radio waves to transfer information, so the robots can check if the book is in order without needing to take the books off the shelves. If a book turns out to be in the wrong place, the robot adds it to a list for the librarians to put in the right spot.

Giving directions

While librarians love talking to their patrons, giving directions can take up a lot of one’s time in a library as big and as busy as Oodi (they have multiple floors and over 10,000 visitors a day). Enter your friendly neighbourhood robot guide, complete with giant googly eyes!

In our opinion, the coolest thing about this robot isn’t so much what it does as how it came to be. Though built by experts, the design guidelines were created via a collaborative effort of the library’s staff and patrons.

Putting books in order for reshelving

You would be surprised how much of a librarian’s time gets eaten up by organizing books to be put back on the shelves.  To save time, Oodi now has a robot that puts the books on a cart in order so librarians can skip straight to putting the books back on the shelves.

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