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U South Alabama Gets a 21st Century Mail Service

The University of South Alabama has replaced the traditional campus post office with a new USA Mail Hub that sends students an e-mail when they have mail to pick up.

The 11,000 students at the University of South Alabama (USA) in Mobile, AL, began a new school year Aug. 17 with a new way of getting their mail as well.

The traditional campus post office was replaced over the summer by a new USA Mail Hub. Part of student life will no longer include a daily visit to the post office — that's because staff members at the mail hub, operated by Ricoh, will inform students by e-mail when they have a letter or package to pick up.

When students visit the mail center and swipe their student ID at a self-service kiosk, a signal is sent to mail center workers that lets them know where the students' deliveries are stored. By the time a student has stepped up to the pickup counter, a staff person has also arrived with the mail to hand over.

Behind the scenes, when mail arrives, rather than being sorted into personal mailboxes, it's added to a high-density rolling rack system. Mail workers use scanners worn on their fingers to scan barcodes on each slot as the piece of mail is deposited. That scan generates the alert for students that something has arrived.

"As with so many universities, our old post office was designed for a bygone time," said USA Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Mitchell. "The new USA Mail Hub is a mail center for the 21st century and will provide a radically improved experience for our students."

Eliminating the University of South Alabama's traditional post office has freed up space for a new copy/printing/packaging center that will offer boxes, envelopes, labeling, etc. Students will be able to ship packages using any of the major commercial shipping services they prefer. Clerks at the mail center will have software that allows them to help students comparison shop among the commercial services for the quickest delivery and best rates.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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