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New Yorkers Take the Gold Against the Machines in City Wide Book Sorting Competition

The hidden world of book sorting.

Have you ever wondered how The New York Public Library processes all the books people request across the five boroughs? Well they hire professional book sorters to get your items in as quickly as possible. 


Within a single day, there are about 40,000 requests for books to be delivered to different branches of the library and each book needs to be sorted by hand. On November 9th these professionals host a book sorting contest and it was pretty intense. The New York sorters will soon compete in Washington State’s King County Library System, "to see who can process the most books in an hour." 




Image via Alta Obscura


The Lyngsoe sorting machine is the human sorters' biggest competitor, and with five annual competitions already completed, it was time for a rematch. The machine can sort up to 12,800 books in an hour and it is the human sorters' mission to pass it.   


In the end, the New York sorters were able to sort 12,330 books in a hour, compared to the machines' total of 10,006. Alta Obscura reports "As someone calls for tequila, [a sorter] just tries to catch his breath. “I wish I could clap,” he says, hunched and panting, “but my arms are gone.” That just goes to prove, that books not only work out our brains, but also our biceps.


Feature Image via Alta Obscura