NYC, Seattle Battle for Title of Fastest Library Book-Sorters

What started out as friendly trash talk has turned into a full-on competition between New York and Seattle for the title of fastest library book-sorters. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.

Forget about being quiet in this library building. With bragging rights on the line, it was time to pump up the volume.  

Workers for the New York and Brooklyn Public Library systems sort tens of thousands of books every day, but on Tuesday, it became a competition against Seattle's King County Library System - who could do this library work faster?  

"If we're not first, we're last," said one book-sorter. "So that's the mentality that I brought to the competition. That's the mentality I bring to work every day."

They had one hour to divvy up as many books as possible - a competition you'll never see on ESPN.

It began in 2011 after New York got a high-tech machine to speed up the painstaking process of sorting library items. Seattle had one, too.

"Once we were working with it for a little while, King County was talking a little bit of trash against us and we were doing the same thing back at them, and they challenged us to a best sorter competition," said Daniel Landsman, assistant coordinator for logistics with BookOps.

With New York and Seattle claiming two wins each, dozens of city library workers took time out at the Long Island City service center to watch the 2015 challenge. They cheered as co-workers unloaded book bins and fed the sorting machine, making sure to put the books in just right. There were awards for best individual and team sorters as well.

While there was a lot of trash-talking - and I mean a lot of trash-talking - this competition was about a lot more than that. It also highlights the hard work these men and women do every day.

"Last year we sorted 7.9 million items with New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries," said Salvatore Magaddino, deputy director with BookOps. "On a busy Monday or Tuesday. we'll sort over 45.000 items, all going, new materials going to our patrons and books requested. So it's a vital part of what we do."

Vital, but not fast enough this time. In Seattle, they sorted 12,572 books in an hour, 200 more than their New York counterparts.  New York has to send the trophy back, along with our great cheesecake. Well, there's always next year. 

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