King County Library System squares off against New York Public Libraries at sixth annual Sorting Smackdown


What: The New York Public Library (NYPL) and Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) will join forces to take on the King County Library System (KCLS) in the sixth annual Book Sorting Competition at 10 am PST Friday, November 9.

KCLS, which has a 3-2 lead over the New Yorkers, will be looking to defend its “Smackdown” title and retain national bragging rights. KCLS teams sorted 12,572 books in one hour in the last National Library Sorting competition, held in 2015. The New Yorkers, who fell 201 books short in 2015, will seek to redeem themselves.

The three library systems–among some of the highest circulating in the country–use state-of-the-art automation to sort books and other library materials such as DVDs and audiobooks before distributing them to libraries. The New York/ Brooklyn and KCLS teams will each “field” two-person teams, counting how many items are sorted in one hour.

KCLS was the first to install its high-tech sorter in 2005. New York began using its sorter in 2010.

“Game on!” said KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum, former Brooklyn Public Library director. “Having just arrived to KCLS in early 2018, this sorting competition has become much more personal,” Rosenblum said. “I’ll be on hand to watch KCLS widen its lead even more.”

Salvatore Magaddino, Director of BookOps for NYPL, was not to be intimidated. Based on how much KCLS seems to be hiring New Yorkers, clearly they recognize the East Coast is where all the talent is,” he said. “True New Yorkers recognize that the wannabe King County of Washington pales in comparison to the one and only New York Kings County. Lisa will come to recognize her turncoat mistake in time.”

This year’s winner gets bragging rights and the spoils of an annual bet. If New York wins, it receives Seattle’s Best Coffee. If KCLS wins, it gets New York Cheesecake.

When: November 9, 10 am PST

Where: KCLS Materials Handling Distribution Center, I-90/Preston Industrial Park, Building 2, 8114 304th Avenue SE, Preston, WA 98050

Library Services Center, home of the New York sorter, 31-11 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, NY

Facts about the KCLS Sorter

  • KCLS installed its sorter in early 2005 and it serves all 49 libraries.
  • In 2010, NYPL traveled to KCLS to learn about the system. Other Library systems from the world have toured, with notable visitors from Australia, China, Russia, Brazil, and India.
  • KCLS was the first and remains the only automated public library sortation system utilizing an automated sorter combined with an automated storage/automated retrieval system. KCLS refers to it as “Tin Man.” In addition to the “Tin Man,” KCLS utilizes automated conveyors, which incorporate automated stacking/unstacking, lifting / lowering machinery integrated within conveyors.
  • The “Tin Man” can travel up to 35mph and can store up to 2439 plastic totes.
  • The entire system is 280 feet long.
  • The speed of the sorter is 3.3 feet per second, 198 feet per minute, or 2.25 MPH.
  • The current KCLS record is 13100 items per hour, or 218 items per minute. 

Facts about the New York Sorter

  • It is a high-tech machine that scans barcodes on materials returned from New York and Brooklyn Public Library branches so those materials can be processed, arranged, and delivered back to patrons within 24 hours.
  • It is 238 feet long.
  • The speed of the sorter is 3.5 miles per hour, 4.9 feet per second, or 294 feet per minute.
  • At normal speed, 8,000-8500 items are sorted per hour or 133-142 per minute.
  • The current record is 12,818 items per hour or 214 items per minute.
  • The error rate is less than one percent.
  • The New York Public Library started using the sorter in 2010. Brooklyn Public Library began using it in 2013 after the formation of BookOps, a fully consolidated, shared library technical services organization that serves both systems.
  • The error rate is less than one percent.


Julie Acteson |

Sara Beth Joren |

About King County Library System

Founded in 1942, the King County Library System (KCLS) is one of the busiest public library systems in the country. Serving the communities of King County (outside the City of Seattle) in Washington State, KCLS currently has 49 libraries and more than 700,000 cardholders. In 2011, KCLS was named “Library of the Year” by Gale/Library Journal. In 2017, KCLS welcomed more than 10 million visitors, and residents checked out nearly 21 million items, including more than 4.7 million digital eBooks and audiobooks, making KCLS the #1 digital circulating library in the U.S.

About New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves more than 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at  

About Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is an independent library system for the 2.5 million residents of Brooklyn. It is the fifth largest library system in the United States with 60 neighborhood libraries located throughout the borough. BPL offers free programs and services for all ages and stages of life, including a large selection of books in more than 30 languages, author talks, literacy programs and public computers. BPL’s eResources, such as eBooks and eVideos, catalog information and free homework help, are available to customers of all ages 24 hours a day at our website: