Introduction

Sometimes the best ideas come from taking things that should exist, but don't, and making them a reality. Shelfy is about making the library what it should be: easy to use, easy to run, and self-organizing. The "smart library" approach allows us to think big by thinking small: all that a room needs to be a library is a shelf and a door.

A smoother experience for library clients

You're exploring a remote corner of the library and you find an interesting book. You still want to browse, but you don't want to leave the book in the shelf, in case you forget about it later.

No need to walk over to the checkout; just tap your phone on the book's RFC tag, press "borrow" on the screen, and put the book in your bag. (No library account? No problem! Our Telegram bot will create an account for you.)

Your friend recommended "The Amateur Cracksman" by E.W. Hornung to you, so you want to check it out as well. You're in the correct section, but the book isn't there. Maybe somebody borrowed the last copy already?

A search on your phone or on a library computer tells you that there is a single copy available, but it's in the shelf of returned books, and hasn't yet been replaced in its correct position. You can fetch the book from the returns shelf and borrow it right away.

That's right! You finished reading "The Grapes of Wrath", so you were supposed to return it on this trip as well.

Just place it in the return shelf. You'll see a confirmation on your phone that the book has been registered as returned.

Time to leave the library. Did you make sure to check out everything you put in your bag? You think you did, but you're paranoid now. What if the alarms go off? People might (gasp!) notice you.

If you're that worried, use the double-scanner exit. If you have non-borrowed books in your bag, they'll show up on the first sensor and it will show a yellow light. Tap your phone on the checkout tag next to the sensor to borrow them and walk on through. You can even borrow all your books this way; just put everything in your bag, walk to the sensor and batch-borrow them in one go.

Power tools for librarians

Abracadabra! Now you're the librarian. And ne'er-do-wells have messed up your library by picking up books and putting them back in shelves where they don't belong.

No worries -- this library keeps track of everything, so it can automatically find misshelved books for you.

Gah, there are so many of them. And I need to replace the returned books as well.

It's tough, I know. But at least you can use the pathing tool on the library system to find a way from shelf to shelf that lets you do all that in the shortest time possible. ;)

Time to order some new books. I wonder what we should get?

You can view the usage statistics on the system -- both the time that a book spends being borrowed out and the time that it's off its shelf within the library.

Any space can be a library

The smart library concept means that the minimal functioning library becomes very simple: one bookshelf and a door, each with an RFID sensor. A classroom, a department or a building can be integrated into the system as a library just as well as a traditional "archive"-type space.

Designed and prototyped features

  • One-tap borrowing a single book
  • Batch borrowing books at library exits equipped with a checkout scanner
  • Returning books implicitly when replaced in the shelf
  • Book basic information query (incl. location)
  • Book statistics query (% of time off the shelf etc.)
  • "My borrowed books" query

Designed features

  • Pathing tool for replacing returned or misshelved books
  • Nearest-copy queries
  • Borrowing restrictions (e.g., you can check out a book from a room, but still can't take it out of the building, or you need to belong to a specific user group to borrow books, such as faculty)
  • Instant loan transfers (a person can transfer a loan to their friend without going through the library)

Beyond libraries

We present the concept here in the context of libraries, but a similar idea can be applied to shared equipment of any sort. It has potential especially in larger buildings or campuses, where the self-organizing property of the "smart" library provides easy "plug and play" order and structure into a chaotic space.

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