Behind-the-scenes: Robots in S’pore’s libraries do the manual work so humans don’t have to

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A Shelf-Reading Robot

This, dear reader, is a Shelf-Reading Robot, which I had the pleasure of meeting one September afternoon.

Created by local company Senserbot, this Shelf-Reading Robot is the product of a collaboration between the National Library Board (NLB) and A*Star to tackle a frustrating problem: The issue of erroneously placed books and the number of man hours wasted on correcting them on a daily basis.

Previously, this had to be done manually and as you might imagine, it was extremely labour-intensive. The robot, however, is able to do it faster and with better accuracy.

The Shelf-Reading Robot is able to scan the RFID tags in library books on the shelves, making sure that they are 1) in the right place, and 2) in the right order. And how effective is this robot, you ask? Very effective, as it apparently has a 99 per cent accuracy score.

Tampines Regional Library deploys two Shelf-Reading Robots and both of them can complete scanning most of the library’s collection in one night (yes, they only work at night).

The next morning, the system spits out a report, which provides the misplaced books and their location, allowing library staff to manually replace the books.

“So it’s doing it every night, so we have very up-to-date records every day,” says Library Manager Lee Yee Fuang.

This is very important not just for the library, but for patrons as well because then it is super easy to search for the location of a library book — right down to the shelf it is on — on the NLB app:

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