Is a library with no librarians still a library?

Faced with funding cuts, reduced staff numbers and minimised opening hours, the library powers that be are forced to ask the question – how can we still provide services, and items, to our clients? The answer to the problem may include the provision of library vending machines that are capable of dispensing items from the library’s collection to clients in locations other than the library and keeping them secure until the client comes to collect them. Enter the world of the library vending machine, book locker and public information kiosk where clients can select, request and borrow items from the collection, or do a little bit of research and even access remote databases.

Seem farfetched? A number of libraries in the US are already making this concept a reality.

Checking books out at the Washington County Library
Checking books out at the Washington County Library book locker via the Wall Street Journal

The library vending machine concept offers libraries a way to expand their reach further into additional locations where their clients are – such as malls and bus, train or ferry stations – and extend their services beyond the physical closing time of the library branch. Public Information Kiosk Inc. manufactures a range of library vending machines with varying features including touch screens and secure telephones, internet connection and database access.

Library vending machines from the Public Information Kiosk Inc.

Library vending machines from the Public Information Kiosk Inc.

The ability of libraries to service the needs of their community with dwindling resources is a constant challenge for many libraries. Libraries need to make the most of what resources they do have and the library vending machine may go some way in addressing that need.

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One thought on “Is a library with no librarians still a library?

  1. To answer the title question – no, its a collection, maybe even a formed collection – certainly not a library. A library without librarians is just a library building, like a school without teachers is just a school building. That is not to say that vending machines or automation are bad ideas, anything which extends the reach of library services to people is good.

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