Hernando County library

Hernando County library patrons will soon meet the new “material handlers” brought in to help with the work of checking out and receiving, sorting and stacking returned books and other library materials.

Be forewarned, though, they won’t have the pleasant personalities of the current staff members — or, in fact, any personality at all. But boy, will they be efficient at their job.

New Automated Material Handlers are being installed at all county branches soon, and January closures are needed so staff members can tag the approximately 160,000 library items that are available at the branches for checkout with radio frequency tags. An AMH is basically a computerized mechanical system that reads the tags and eliminates the need for humans to check materials in or out, as well as the need to collect, sort and stack materials returned.

The machines will be installed in February. Once working, they will use a conveyor belt to process materials in and out, placing returned items in bins after sorting and stacking them neatly based on the information on the electronic tags. From there, a human steps in to return the items to shelves.

According to Kasey Kupcik, Hernando public information coordinator, the systems is quite elaborate.

“Various belts, pulleys, chutes, slides, and laser beams are used to ensure bins do not overflow and to get each item oriented correctly and pushed or carried into the right tote or bin,” Kupcik said.

The self-service system means library patrons will feed the robotic devices the items they are checking out or returning. According to information published on the Web about AMH systems, information from the scanned tags is then added to the library’s computer system to track who has checked out the materials, and when the item has been returned records that information.

The total cost of the AMH system hardware and software is $460,000. Advantages of the system include improved circulation and return of books to the shelves, minimum physical contact for better hygiene and reduced workload on library staff members, which combined handle 800,000 items per year.

The following is the closure schedule:

• Main branch, 238 Howell Avenue, Brooksville: Closed Jan. 11-15 and reopening Jan. 19

• East Hernando branch, 6457 Windmere Road, Brooksville: Closed Jan. 19-23 and reopening Jan. 26

• Spring Hill branch, 9220 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill: Closed Jan. 26-Feb. 6 and reopening Feb. 9

The West Hernando branch reopened Jan. 11 after a lengthier closure for repairs, painting, new flooring and computer upgrades, according to Kupcik.