Li­brary con­sid­ers clos­ing book on vend­ing ma­chines

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - JON WILL­ING jwill­ing@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/JonathanWilling

The Ot­tawa Pub­lic Li­brary could even­tu­ally pull the plug on its firstof-their-kind vend­ing ma­chines at the Hunt Club-River­side Park Com­mu­nity Cen­tre.

A re­port sched­uled for con­sid­er­a­tion by the li­brary board on Tues­day rec­om­mends op­er­at­ing the kiosk only un­til the end of the ma­chine life cy­cle, ex­pected in 2022. The li­brary also plans to stop us­ing lock­ers for peo­ple to pick up held books at the com­mu­nity cen­tre, po­ten­tially when the locker life cy­cle is up in 2020.

Af­ter re­view­ing the only kiosk ser­vice in its sys­tem, the li­brary re­al­ized it wasn’t be­ing used enough to jus­tify its ex­pan­sion or po­ten­tial long-term op­er­a­tions.

The re­port on the li­brary’s al­ter­na­tive ser­vices rec­om­mends stick­ing with book­mo­biles and ser­vices for peo­ple who can’t leave their homes.

The pop­u­lar­ity of the kiosk ser­vice at the com­mu­nity cen­tre has been un­der­whelm­ing.

When the two book-vend­ing ma­chines were in­stalled there in 2010, at a startup cost of $105,000, the OPL was a trail­blazer, be­com­ing the first in Canada to use the un­staffed au­to­mated lend­ing ser­vice. Peo­ple can swipe their li­brary cards and choose the ma­te­rial they want. At the time, the OPL thought the ma­chines could be use­ful in fu­ture LRT sta­tions.

Now, the li­brary vend­ing ma­chines don’t fit into OPL pri­or­i­ties for al­ter­na­tive ser­vices. The li­brary notes the ma­chines are lim­ited to li­brary card­hold­ers and ex­pan­sion to other neigh­bour­hoods would cost more than book­mo­bile ser­vice.

As well, ma­chine use hasn’t in­creased over the past seven years, the li­brary says. Fewer than 300 peo­ple use the kiosk reg­u­larly, which the li­brary des­ig­nates as more than six times per year. The ma­te­rial in the ma­chines doesn’t move as much as other li­brary ma­te­rial, with the ma­chine ma­te­rial cir­cu­lat­ing be­tween 60-per-cent and 90-per-cent less than ma­te­rial in a li­brary branch.

Ac­cord­ing to the li­brary, 85 per cent of kiosk cus­tomers also use branches or book­mo­biles, which have two stops within one kilo­me­tre of the com­mu­nity cen­tre.

CHRIS MIKULA

Coun. Maria McRae got the first li­brary vend­ing ma­chine in Canada in­stalled.

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