Thinking Beside the Library Media Box

Look, over there!  Library Media BoxIt’s slimmer than a Red Box.  It’s a different color.  It’s able to leap tall library buildings in a single bound.  It’s the new Library Media Box from 3M. 

This daring defender of justice and the library way caught my eye last weekend during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Diego.  It takes the Red Box idea and applies it to libraries and the library lending model. 

The sales rep I spoke with seemed to be from Public Information Kiosk, Inc.,a 3M strategic partner and evidently the actual designer of this media box.  He said the basic box holds 720 DVDs or CDs, which could contain movies, videos, music, audiobooks, games, or anything else the library lends in this basic physical format.  Users can select and checkout items directly at the box, using a touchscreen interface, or they can go online and place an online hold for an item for later pick-up.  I imagined a library patron browsing online through the available items during lunch break, then swinging by the box on the way home to pick up the item. 

The boxes can be daisy-chained for more capacity, up to a maximum of four boxes, or 2880 items, which would be a veritable wall-o-media.  Patron authentication is via SIP2 integration with the library’s ILS. The box will print a receipt upon checkout, as well as a return receipt.  If patrons return items to a circulation counter or other return box, reloading the Library Media Box is a snap.  Evidently the media item must be placed in a semi-smart, custom, slimline case, which are included with the vending unit.  The librarian can place each item in any order among the available slots.  No sorting or shelf-reading required.

These puppies aren’t cheap.  The base purchase price quoted to me was $25,000, plus delivery and installation.  The purchase price includes one year of service, software support, and licensing (not sure what is being licensed here), but in the second and subsequent years the library will pay $3,900. 

Several libraries, including reportedly the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Ohio, will be installing Library Media Boxes soon.  It will be interesting to see how library patrons respond.  I wonder if libraries eventually will place Library Media Boxes outside the friendly confines of the library in other high-traffic areas of the communities they serve, such as shopping malls, airport terminals, and grocery stores.  Because Red Box has strategic partnerships with retail stores, such as McDonald’s, it would be cool if other retail chains would embrace the placement of Library Media Boxes near their stores.