New robots at the St. Catharines library help with navigation, book carrying

The St. Catharines Public Library has received two robots to help patrons carry books and navigate the facility.

Move over R2D2, these are the droids the St. Catharines Public Library have been looking for.

The downtown central location has received two new helper robots, donated to the library from Wind Group Inc., which owns both Wind and East Izakaya restaurants downtown.

In the restaurants, the robots are used to direct people to their seats and bring them their food.

In the library, however, the robots will have a different use.

TJ Lawrence, the library’s website and systems administrator, has been tasked with working with the robots, mapping out the library for them, and programming them.

He said for now, they’re an interactive tool for people to use to help carry books, guide people to different sections of the library, and for kids to interact with.

“They were designed as food service robots. So they go from A to B and carry stuff. That’s their major thing that they can do,” he said. “I’m excited that it can guide its customers to the different various areas of the library.”

Lawrence explained a scenario where the robot would be particularly helpful. He imagined a mother coming to the library with her kids, and 30 books later she’s trying to hold a huge stack of books and watch the kids.

“The robot can assist with that, and they can just sit there, wait for you to stack it up — you push circulation, and it goes right to the circulation or self-checkout,” he said. “Then you finish off, you say ‘done.’ And it just goes back to its parking spot and waits for the next customer.”

In the future, Lawrence is hoping he can program the robots to host “robot story time” with kids, with an interaction book onscreen.

The library’s communications specialist Grace Howes explained the robots represent a shift from the traditional library feel.

“Our huge overarching goal is to really be kind an exciting space,” Howes said. “So when we ask kids in our programs, ‘What do you think about the library?’ They think, ‘Oh, you go there, you read books and you be quiet.’ But our robots sing, and they dance, they play music. And that’s the kind of space we want to be creating. So by having these robots, we’re just demonstrating how fun the library is and how (that) old school books and shh is kind of over.”

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