Access device for a materials depository

Deposit and collection receptacles – Closures and chutes

Reexamination Certificate

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Reexamination Certificate




The present invention relates generally to a materials depository, and specifically to an access device for providing patron access to a library materials depository.
A “depository” is generally characterized as an unattended or free-standing receptacle for deposit or “return” of materials thereinto by patrons. A depository generally includes protection against theft and vandalism for materials returned therein. A depository may be variously termed, for example, a “night depository”, an “after hours depository”, or a “drop box”.
Modern libraries have experienced increased demands from patrons, in terms of needs for larger and larger holdings of books and other tangible materials. Accordingly, it is not uncommon for public libraries, for example, to handle collection and distribution of hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of books and materials. Tasks of libraries in handling these ever-increasing volumes are often overwhelming.
In response to such growing volumes of materials, automated methods for materials handling have been developed for library environments. For example, exterior or “outdoor” depositories have been implemented in many libraries so that patrons need not enter the library building to make their returns, and library personnel are not required to immediately handle returns of library materials from the patrons.
Generally, implementation of a depository in a library environment advantageously obviates any need for library staff to assist patrons in return processes. That is, a depository serves as a common receptacle for materials being returned from patrons; when time permits, library personnel may then check-in returned materials en masse. In this way, valuable working time of library staff may be efficiently utilized by elimination of sporadic “over the counter” returns from patrons that interrupt performance of other tasks.
Furthermore, with such large volumes of materials in circulation and with growing numbers of patrons, there is a need for “after hours” returns of materials from patrons who could not otherwise visit the library, in a particular instance, during regular hours of operation. An exterior accessible depository serves this need, by allowing patrons to make secured returns to the library when the library is closed. Such an exterior accessible depository is herein referred to as, simply, a depository. The depository may provide “drive up” service to patrons, by allowing access thereto from a vehicle driveway provided immediately adjacent to the depository. In such a drive-up depository, patrons may access the depository without leaving their vehicles, which is particularly comfortable in an adverse outdoor environment such as when rain or snow is falling, for example. Indeed, inherent convenience provided to patrons using a drive-up depository commonly results in drive-up depository use even during regular hours of library operation.
It is a fundamental requirement of such a depository that it be simple, rugged, virtually automatic in operation, and resistant to theft or vandalism of materials received therein.
In general, aside from library applications, attempts have been made to respond to problems associated with return of materials, particularly in bank and post office environments.
For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,665,839 entitled “Depository” issued to Heyl provides an apparatus for receiving a bank deposit in a bank depository in which the deposit is inserted through a doorway into an attack resistant, enclosed movable compartment or carrier that carries the deposit to a position for introduction to a vault.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,284,101 issued to Oder et al. and entitled “After Hour Depository Door Securement Mechanism” teaches a night depository providing full closing of a depository door after initiation of closure thereof, with resistance to jamming.
In U.S. Pat. No. 5,176,315 entitled “Book Receptacle with Collapsible Container” issued to Homel, and in U.S. Pat. No. 5,082,171 entitled “Book Return with Collapsible Bag Receptacle” issued to Homel et al., a book depository is disclosed that employs a casement which defines a door compartment having a frontal access opening.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,029,753 issued to Hipon et al. and entitled “Garage Door Mail Drop Box” discloses a mail drop box incorporated with a mail slot in a garage door for receiving mail deposited therein.
In U.S. Pat. No. 3,942,435 issued to Aultz et al. and entitled “Depository for Receiving, Imprinting and Storing Deposited Articles of Variable Thickness” a depository is provided that is capable of providing uniformly consistent imprints on articles of varying thickness without a need for adjustment as article thickness varies.
U.S. Pat. No. 3,854,656 issued to Bishop et al. and entitled “Postal Drop Box” discloses a device for secure drop-box article containment.
In U.S. Pat. No. 3,465,955 issued to DeBoer et al. and entitled “Night Depository” a device is disclosed that includes a pull-down access hopper or door for accepting deposits thereinto.
In terms of security and patron access, implementation of a depository as disclosed in the aforementioned patents has several disadvantages. For example, many simple drop box depositories do not include an access door. Consequently, secure containment of materials, placed therein, is not possible and the materials are therefore easily subject to unauthorized withdrawal, theft, or vandalism.
Another disadvantage inherent in these patents and in devices similar thereto is that typical pull-down depository access doors provided with most secure depositories introduce particular handling problems. That is, persons using such secure depositories typically experience difficulty in handling materials to be placed therein and, simultaneously, pulling down or opening the depository access door. Additionally, depending upon a person's stature or physical circumstances, the person may need to uncomfortably reach up to the pull-down door and simultaneously lift up the materials for deposit; conversely, some persons may need to uncomfortably bend and reach down to accomplish the same task.
These aforedescribed handling problems exist for able-bodied individuals, and are exacerbated for persons having physical disabilities or limitations. Indeed, many such depositories are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“the ADA”) or at least are not “user-friendly” for disabled persons.
Furthermore, drive-up depositories incorporating the typical pull-down access door also have their own unique operational limitations and disadvantages. For example, it is common for a person to drive their vehicle closely to a drive-up depository, particularly when adverse weather conditions exist. In this situation, the pull-down door typically abuts and is interfered with, or is at least partially obstructed, by the vehicle's body. Inevitably also, in adverse weather, contaminants such as rain or snow fall upon the materials as they are being deposited via the pull-down door.
Another disadvantage of a depository utilizing a pull-down access door is that a person using such a depository risks having their fingers pinched upon closing the door.
Yet another disadvantage of a common depository arises inherently from utilization of a typical “slide chute” for transportation of materials being returned at the depository to a processing “check-in” area or storage container. Such use of slide chutes commonly leads to problems of “shingling” or “pinch points” affecting the materials. That is, upon sliding down the chute and reaching a bottom or “run out” portion of the chute, the materials usually become piled upon each other or “shingled” and eventually become jammed (at a pinch point) therein. Consequently, the materials need to be manually un-jammed or de-shingled before further handling can occur.
Thus, there exists a need for an access device for a materials depository that (i) provides security to the depository, (ii) alleviates problems associated with handling materials to be deposited and


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