Libraries turn a new leaf with latest technology

Shanghai's libraries have entered a new high-tech era.

Shot by Jiang Xiaowei. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Subtitles by Zhong Youyang.

Libraries turn a new leaf with latest technology
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A reader scans a QR code to borrow a book from a self-service booth at Yangpu District Library.

Shanghai’s libraries have entered a new high-tech era.

As libraries celebrated World Book Day yesterday with a series of events, Yangpu District Library also marked its transformation.

Outside the entrance, there is a booth-like “Book World” self-service facility for readers to borrow and return books.

So far there are more than 20 such machines in Yangpu, and the number is expected to rise to more than 50 over the next three years.

“I’m a ‘Book World’ user too, it’s really convenient,” said Zhang Yan, an official with the library. 

“If your Zhima Credit (Alipay’s online credit scoring platform) reaches 550, it’s completely free to use.”

The machine is like an apartment building for books and each book has its own room. 

A reader can either scan their QR code with their “Book World” app, or let the machine recognize their face to use its services. 

After typing in the “room number” of the book they want to borrow, a door of the tiny “room” will open.

A reader can borrow at most five books a time and 10 books in total. Books can be returned by placing them one by one on a sensor and then dropping them into a slot.

There is also a delivery and return service on the app. 

“Our Big Data platform also helps us record the books being borrowed in real time to find what our readers like,” said Sun Wei, with the library’s technology department. 

An LED screen at the entrance of the library lists popular books. 

The platform will also determine the locations for the next 30 machines.

Officials want to create a “15-minute reading circle,” so that people can find a “Book World” machine within 15 minutes.

The library also has an intelligent book-sorting machine, a first for the city.

After a book is dropped off, it will be conveyed to a platform with many small turntables. 

The turntables sort the returns into five categories, which greatly reduces the work of librarians.

An augmented reality (AR) system has also been developed to explain the history of the 83-year-old building.

Visitors can scan the building’s different corners and gain information from pop-up texts and audio recordings. 

Libraries turn a new leaf with latest technology
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A "graffiti wall" at Shanghai Children's Library becomes three-dimensional thanks to AR technology.

Shanghai Children’s Library on downtown Nanjing Road W. is also exploring the use of new technologies. 

“This year we have upgraded the library’s website to make it more convenient and attractive,” said the leader of its technology team. 

“Readers can search for and renew books on the system. There are also some e-books and featured online reading resources.”

She told Shanghai Daily that the library is cooperating with American digital distributor OverDrive to introduce more foreign e-books for local children.

On the second floor of the library, the former digital reading room had been renovated into a space for creative activities and play. A “graffiti wall” with cute, colorful paintings of animals serves as a background. Using smart tools to scan each of them, a three-dimensional animal will show up on a screen thanks to AR technology. 

They can also open an AR book from the AR3D Popular Science Picture Book Library series and find a way back to the Jurassic period. 

Dinosaurs will appear on smart devices, with children able to move them around using their fingers.

Libraries turn a new leaf with latest technology
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Dinosaurs stand out in the AR3D Popular Science Picture Book Library series.

The library also has developed its own audio program “Little Bookworm Radio” with its “star” librarians as readers. 

These audio books, released once a month, are available on the library’s WeChat public account and its website. This month’s book is by American author Jerry Pinkney.

According to 31-year-old Hong Chen, father of a 3-year-old boy, the “Little Bookworm Radio” allows his son to access these award-winning books without visiting the library. 

Gan Chenyan, mother of a 6-year-old girl, also found the online resources convenient. She would like online classes too.

The Shanghai Library, founded in 1952, is also looking at smart solutions.

All 500,000 volumes can be borrowed by WeChat instead of library cards.

Zhou Deming, deputy head of the library, said the library’s new branch in the Pudong New Area is set to incorporate devices such as “robot librarians.”

Xu Qiang, director of the library’s readers’ service center, said the library may introduce biometric identification technology in the future.

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