Ms. Stark is one of the Postal Service’s data conversion operators, a techie title for someone who deciphers unreadable addresses, and she is one of the last of a breed. In September, the post office will close one of its two remaining centers where workers try to read the scribble on envelopes and address labels that machines cannot. At one time, there were 55 plants around the country where addresses rejected by machines were guessed at by workers aided with special software to get the mail where it was intended.
But improved scanning technology now allows machines to “read” virtually all of the 160 billion pieces of mail that moved through the system last year. As machines have improved, workers have been let go, and after September, the facility here will be the post office’s only center for reading illegible mail.