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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Crazy Cool Things Libraries Are Doing (That I Didn’t Know When I Lived in NYC)

New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Library system are all magnificent institutions, each with their own tips, tricks, and innovative programs.  That said, you cannot get away from the fact that in the end they’re just a collection of branches in a gigantic system.  And like many such branches they are unable to partake of the innovations currently sweeping libraries nationwide.  I tell you this because since moving to the Midwest I have seen libraries, such libraries, as would make my NYC friends green with envy.  Ideas that I didn’t know about.  Technologies hitherto unknown.  And, like any good little librarian, I want to share all this with you.  Because, quite frankly, there’s some killer, crazy, wacky good stuff going on out there and you should be aware of it.

Here then is a smattering of cool things I’ve personally witnessed in libraries in the last year.  Very few of these are all that new.  I just hadn’t heard about them or seen them in action till now.  Those of you in big systems might be in the same boat.

Self-Check-In Machines

We all know about self-check-OUT machines in libraries already.  But in a couple places where staffing was tight and room was ah-plenty I have seen self-check-IN machines as well.  I couldn’t find a good online picture of them for this post, so simply imagine that there’s a little hole in the wall.  You put your book or DVD on a small conveyor belt, located in said hole.  It then automatically checks your item in.  Easy peasy.

Redbox-like DVD Dispensers

DVD DispenserEvery library deals with theft on some level.  Sometimes it’s innocuous.  Sometimes it’s pervasive.  DVDs tend to be the easiest targets too.  Sure, you can get all the self-locking cases in the world, but it’s not going to do you a lick of good if someone just takes the dang thing into a bathroom, pries it open with a swiss army knife, and pockets the present inside.  My library has talked about just putting out the cases and having the DVDs behind the circulation desk when people check out, but the increased amount of time this would add to the clerks’ already existing jobs is just crazy.

That’s where media boxes / DVD jukeboxes / dispensing machines come in to play.  2,880 disks are available through the one seen here:

That’s one solution anyway.

Ebook Kiosks

One of the great complaints surrounding ebooks is that you can’t really browse them the same way you can print books.  That’s true, but there are some solutions at hand.  The 3M Cloud Library’s Discovery Terminal, for example, allows patrons to scroll through books and download them right then and there to their devices.

3M Cloud Checkout

Media Centers

Studio 801A lot of libraries have media centers.  They’re nice.  You can get computer classes and learn how to use 3D printers.  Simpe, right?  But when I was in Studio 801 at the Wauconda Public Library, I was shown a world entirely unlike any I’d encountered in a library before.  As they say on their site, “The purpose of Studio 801 is to provide library patrons state-of-the-art equipment and software designed to help complete various digital projects, including school, work, and personal projects. Studio 801 offers the space, hardware, and software for library patrons to get creative with graphic design, video, music, photography, digitization, and much more!”

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Green screen rooms, recording studios, areas where you can transfer your VHS tapes to digital FOR FREE!  Instruments you can rent for those aforementioned recording studios.  A friggin’ APP BUILDER!!  Oh, it’s a brave, new, wonderful world, my friends.

Meeting Rooms

Piggybacking on those studios, imagine free spaces you can get from the library that are tricked out with the latest in white screens, Skype capabilities, drop down screens, etc.  They exist.

Paper Airplane Launchers

Because who doesn’t love mechanical paper airplane launchers?  I mean, really.



About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. MotherLydia says:

    It looks different, but the King County Library system has had a self-check in equipment at the main Bellevue library for about 10 years — it is at the outside drop off.

    I’d like to see that ebook screen. I agree that browsing ebooks is a definite problem — though I am usually doing it at home so I guess a screen at the library may not help me anyway.

  2. Nocturnals World says:

    Okay. Obviously the most important innovation on this list is the paper airplane launcher. Must track that down immediately.
    But the Wauconda media center is also impressive, and the ebook kiosk interesting. I like the idea behind the kiosk, but if I was already at the library, I would probably eschew it in favor for physical copies. I would say my e-reader gets the most use at midnight, when I recall a book that I MUST read immediately, but all the libraries and bookstores around me are closed. Still, innovative.