“A Vending Library Is No Library”

Today I read an interesting article in the 4/15/2010 issue of Library Journal titled “A Vending Library Is No Library,” written by James R. Lund, Director of Red Wing Public Library, MN.

“A new Washington County Library location is scheduled to open in Hugo [MN] in February with no books and no librarians,” the Pioneer Press reported. This plan for a library kiosk with an adjoined book locker is not as comprehensive as the Library-a-Go-Go service model already in operation in Contra Costa County, CA, where stand-alone machines house and circulate 400 books. Yet, both vending solutions share a reductionist and, ultimately, self-defeating philosophy of library service—one devoid of human contact and only as dynamic as the nearest RedBox.”

The article is interesting for me because it mentioned Washington County Library. Washington County recently added its first freestanding library kiosk in Hugo, which allows patrons to order materials to pick up later.

Some are concerned that such kiosks might replace small libraries in the future.

A library kiosk is definitely not a library. In many places, the public library is the heart and center of the community. A library kiosk cannot fill that important role of the traditional library. I certainly don’t want to see libraries being replaced with vending machines.

However in small communities where a traditional library does not exist, a library kiosk is better than nothing. At least it offers a convenient place to pick up and drop off materials.

A two-part series related to Washington County Library was published in Pioneer Press on April 18 and April 19. Here are the links:

To balance books, libraries close, take new forms

Lake Elmo library supporters consider mutiny in the county

What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts.