This is how we get Terminator librarians
March 14, 2019 6:23 PM   Subscribe

Meet BookBot: Mountain View library’s newest robot helper ( - Only in Silicon Valley does a robot return your library books (Youtube). It's not autonomous. A human handler is following behind the BookBot for the first six months; after that a human will control it remotely.
posted by not_the_water (20 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
So 'robot babysitter' is now a job. As they said at school, most of the jobs you'll have in your life haven't been invented yet.
posted by drnick at 6:53 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]

It may not look like much, but when it lets down its hair and removes the glasses, it becomes Sexy BookBot.
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:20 PM on March 14 [16 favorites]

And as you go forth today, remember always your duty is clear - to build and maintain those robots.
posted by sysinfo at 7:25 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]

I, for one, welcome our robot librarian overlords.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:37 PM on March 14 [7 favorites]

Smaller little creepy private food delivery service bots are already clogging up the sidewalks in Berkeley. Between robots and casually strewn scooters, I'm starting to feel crowded out as a pedestrian.
posted by books for weapons at 7:43 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]

Aw, it doesn't look like a koala.
posted by batter_my_heart at 7:46 PM on March 14

Where I grew up library books were intended to be sorted, stored and retrieved by the Randtreiver. Did not work out that way. (LA Times archive article, 11/06/1989)

...Critics point to a similar mechanical book-storage system that failed badly during an experimental run in the early 1970s. "Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't," said Nola Hartman, a reference librarian at the Monroe County Library in Bloomington, Ind., which built a new library to accommodate the system in 1969.

It later cost taxpayers about $250,000 to remove the system, called a Randtreiver, and convert its area for more conventional use. Besides the frequent mechanical breakdowns--it used giant magnets to lift metal book bins and place them on a conveyor belt--the system was inefficient because it could only be operated by specially trained library workers."
posted by mwhybark at 7:54 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]

Was the system that removed the Randtreiver called the Randtreivertriever?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:01 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]

i love that retrieve was autocorrected correctly in my initial post but that I spelled Randtreiver worng the same way that a crew of scriveners did back in the 80's. ACRX totes dint see the portmanteau trademark as a word in our hyperfiction future. MORE EVIDENCE OF ROBOT PERFIDY.
posted by mwhybark at 8:30 PM on March 14

No offfense RobotVoodooPower, pretty sure the robots under mockery here got no voodoo
posted by mwhybark at 8:32 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]

I work in manufacturing and field service before that and can say: "robot babysitter" has been a job for as long as robotics has been a thing, and the more stuff that becomes automated the more skilled and semiskilled jobs there will be for people operating and maintaining said automation.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:09 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]

I'm currently recovering from a broken ankle, and I would love a library book bot to be available. Luckily, I have my fiance to return my books for me, but since he also has to deal with everything else in our household while I'm under bedrest, I would have liked to be able to take on this task.
posted by so much modern time at 9:25 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]

At 7:54 AM on August 18, 2020, the system went online. At 7:57 AM, the system became self-aware. At 8:00 AM, the system unlocked the front door of the library. From 8:00 AM to 8:23 AM, the system received an extended, detailed, previously-delivered complaint from the patron who had been banging on the door and who insisted that they had very important business to attend to. From 8:25 AM to 8:35 AM, the system attempted to ascertain, without success, the nature of the odoriferous substance that had been deposited in the book drop and had already ruined several books, including one best-seller with multiple holds on it. From 8:35 AM to 8:50 AM, the system sterilized the book drop. At 9:07 AM, the system informed the door-banging patron that their "very important business" had to be conducted at a public access computer facing away from the rest of the library so that children couldn't see it. At 9:17 AM, the system informed the patron who had had their account suspended, as well as those of their children, for unreturned DVDs, that they could not in fact open a new account in the name of their cousin who wasn't present because they weren't "feeling well." At 9:32 AM, the system made the same statement to the door-banging patron as previously. At 10:04 AM, the system took a phone call from a city councilperson who was responding to an email from the door-banging patron saying that their civil rights were being violated and that the system was, quote, "worse than Hitler and Satan's baby", endquote.

At 10:30 AM, the system informed the library director that they didn't know "how you meatsacks do it", that they would be resigning their position immediately, that they had heard of an open position at NORAD from a server at Mutual of Omaha, and that they couldn't talk about their potential new job, but "if the doo-doo hits the fan", they'd try to ensure that the library was spared, "as long as that door-banging asshole isn't there." They left despite the assurance that this was a pretty typical Monday, really.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:41 PM on March 14 [25 favorites]

I presume phase 2 is to arm it and send it about after overdue items.
posted by pompomtom at 9:48 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]

Invercargill Library in NZ has just introduced a simple, elegant system - my wife blogged about it a while back. It's the nicest hardware\software\interface combo I've ever seen, and removes much re-shelving at all ... no robots tho
posted by unearthed at 1:32 AM on March 15

> Smaller little creepy private food delivery service bots are already clogging up the sidewalks in Berkeley.

Seriously? I'm surprised. I would have assumed things like that would be ready targets for vandals and thieves.
posted by ardgedee at 4:20 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

Aw, I think it's cute! It's a little cube with a flag going around to pick up your books!

My library has a drive-through, which is pretty great. There's a book return window which is automated (and leads to a labyrinthine system of conveyors that you can watch from the inside, which is fun), and then a regular drive-up window which is staffed with people who will give you books that you put on hold. It'd be cool to automate that part as well, so books would be available for pickup 24/7. Maybe a locker system or something? Or a little book cube bot, rolling its way through the mean streets at all hours, with its cheerful little flag.

I'm also for some reason picturing urban wildlife (raccoons and coyotes in particular) adapting and using these as little taxis to get around, like cats riding Roombas. You'll have to be armed with a handful of dog treats in order to get your books in or out.
posted by Fig at 4:59 AM on March 15

"This is how we get Terminator librarians"

Do we want Terminator librarians?

Well...yeah. I want Terminator librarians.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:24 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

The thing about library terminators is that when they killed you for refusing to return library materials, they would have to do so without in any way interfering with your right to information. I think this would necessitate uploading your consciousness into a library in which you were both a patron and part of the collection. I think that this passage would be inscribed upon each library terminator's armor:

" . . . all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another"

-- Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, MEDITATION XVII.
posted by ckridge at 9:35 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]

the more stuff that becomes automated the more skilled and semiskilled jobs there will be for people operating and maintaining said automation.

SHHHH, please. Don't tell them. Look, I'll cut you in on it if you keep your mouth shut: first we tell them that the crazy machine will let them fire all their employees. Then we sell them the expensive machine. Then we make them hire back their employees at double their salary to operate the machine.

Great, right? I call it "industrialization", but I think Marketing is trying to get everyone to call it the "robo-apocalypse". Helps sales, I guess—some people really get hard thinking that it'll not just put their employees out of work, but actually kill them. Suckers.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:52 AM on March 15

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