The Toronto Public Library is considering whether to install library book vending machines in popular transit hubs and library lobbies, according to the Toronto Star.
These machines can dispense several hundred titles. The library system could ‘broaden’ its reach by providing accessible books to a different customer base. Patrons could check out books even if the library branches were closed. Shown in the photo is are book-dispensing machines that the Ottawa Public Library has deployed.
As an e-book fan. I have mixed feelings about this. I am all for broadening the reach as a concept, but these machines still embody the two main flaws of the print model. They require people-time to maintain and stock, and the constraints of their physical form limit the selection.
I myself can sign out e-books even when the library is closed, and I can choose from several thousand titles. When I log in and sort by date of release, I can peruse several hundred new additions per week!
Unfortunately, the book-dispensing machines may fall victim to the classic ‘new technology’ implementation path—enough early use, due to the novelty factor, to statistically justify their installation, then declining patronage as over-worked, budget-besieged library staffers fall behind on stocking them and maintaining them.
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe commuters really do want to sign out a limited pre-selection of library books on their way to work. What do you think?