In the Hugo, Minn., suburb of St. Paul, the new library branch has no librarians, no card catalog and no comfortable chairs in which to curl up and read. Instead, when patrons want a book or DVD, they order it online and pick it up from a digitally locked, glove-compartment-sized cubby a few days later from Library Express, a stack of metal lockers outside city hall.
Faced with layoffs and budget cuts, or simply looking for ways to expand their reach, libraries around the country are considering innovative ways to replace traditional, full-service institutions with devices and strategies that may be redefining what it means to have a library. Later this year Mesa, Ariz., plans to open a new "express" library in a strip-mall, open three days a week, with outdoor kiosks to dispense books and DVDs at all hours of the day. Meanwhile, Palm Harbor, Fla., has offset the impact of reduced hours by installing glass-front vending machines that dispense DVDs and popular books.
To read more about this or to hear an audio interview with Wall Street Journal reporter Conor Dougherty speaking on the library of tomorrow and what's behind the shift, log onto the Wall Street Journal at:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304354104575568592236241242.html