Library 'vending machine' touted for Toronto

The Toronto Public Library is exploring the possibility of installing an automated kiosk that dispenses books in Union Station, Canada's busiest transit hub.

The Toronto Public Library is exploring the possibility of installing an automated kiosk that dispenses books in Union Station, Canada's busiest transit facility.

"A lot of people go through busy hubs like Union Station every day and it's a convenience for them," said Anne Bailey, the director of branch libraries for the Toronto Public Library.

Bailey estimates that the kiosk will likely appear at Union Station in 2012. The station serves an estimated 200,000 people on most business days.

The kiosk would "look somewhat like a vending machine," she said. Borrowers can use a touchscreen to select books, CDs or DVDs. They then swipe their library cards, check out the items they are interested in and return them to the kiosk by the due date.

"What it does is it allows you to make library materials more available to audiences and areas where you might not be able to put a library branch," said Bailey.

"We think that people will really benefit from this type of access to our service and it will also introduce new people to the library."

She noted that similar systems have been set up Sweden, California and the Netherlands. Ottawa also set up one such machine in May of this year, she said.

That being said, Bailey doesn't envision the kiosks ever replacing libraries, many of which are community hubs.

"A kiosk like this doesn't offer a range of services like a full branch does," she said.

The Toronto Public Library had its busiest year in 2009, with more than 31 million items borrowed over the course of the year.