Robo-libraries: Coming to a Strip Mall Near You

Posted by Kyla Fullenwider

The Wall Street Journal reports that "robo-libraries"—a kind of book locker where members can pick up or drop off books are popping up in strip malls and parking lots across the country. Budget-strapped libraries, many of whom have laid off librarians and reduced their hours, are employing the takeout book tactic to help them meet the community's growing demands while reducing their costs. But some librarians see this as the an attack on the public library system itself.

 James Lund, director of the Red Wing Public Library in Red Wing, Minn., recently wrote skeptically about the "vending library" in Library Journal, a trade publication. "The basis of the vending machine is to reduce the library to a public-book locker," Mr. Lund said in an interview. "Our real mission is public education and public education can't be done from a vending machine. It takes educators, it takes people, it takes interaction."

The American public library system, first popularized by Benjamin Franklin and largely financed by Andrew Carnegie, has grown into one of the largest and most enviable in the world. But with increasing pressure on local governments to reduce budgets, library funds, despite protests, have been some of the lowest hanging fiscal fruit.

What do you think? Are book lockers a way to keep the American library system afloat or the beginning of the end of the public library as we know it?

Image via Flickr user Nrbelex