Books and movies vending machine at Robert Crown previews new library


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

The Evanston Public Library’s “book lending machine” at the Robert Crown Community Center, 1701 Main St. The machine allows library card holders to borrow books and movies.

Sophia Scanlan, Reporter

While traditional vending machines typically offer snacks like candy and chips, a “book-lending machine” provided by the Evanston Public Library gives city residents the option to borrow books and DVDs.

Located at the current Robert Crown Community Center, 1701 Main St., the EPL’s vending machine offers a variety of materials, ranging from children’s stories to young adult novels to new movie releases. EPL library card holders can rent out materials by scanning their cards at the location, and rented material can then be returned at any EPL branch.

The library opened the machine in the summer of 2017 as a way to advertise the new branch of EPL, which is set to open at the new Robert Crown later this year, said Tim Longo, the library’s access services manager.

“We wanted to get people excited for the physical library that’s coming,” Longo said. “It’s also a high traffic spot where parents and kids are killing time.”

He said EPL librarians originally stocked the machines mostly with books for adults. After reviewing circulation trends, Longo said they realized that the children’s and young-adult books in the machine were most popular. The machine now mainly offers genres appealing to a younger audience of readers, he said.

The system has had its challenges, Elizabeth Bird, the collection development manager at EPL, said. Bird said the layout of the machines sometimes makes it hard for patrons to get the book they actually want.

Someone could see a book or DVD they want, but they’d have to check out a couple books in front before they could reach it, she said.

“Sometimes they get frustrated with (the machine) because sometimes, it doesn’t understand what you’re trying to do,” Bird said. “Generally, we’ve had a good response.”

EPL’s neighborhood services manager Connie Heneghan said that, even though the lending machine doesn’t offer the full services available at a library, it helps provide easy access to materials in an area away from the main branches.

She added that Robert Crown’s long hours — open from 5:30 a.m. to midnight — allow people using the machine to check out materials, even when the public libraries might not be open yet.

“We’re trying to do more to expand our services,” Heneghan said.

Heneghan added that other programs have also been helpful for providing easy access to library materials, such as the book bikes, which bring library programming around the city in warmer weather, and the Pop-Up Libraries that allow residents to download titles to their smartphones or tablets for free.

Though there are currently no plans for more book lending machines, Longo said the library is satisfied with how Evanston residents have utilized the machine at Robert Crown.

“The city has liked (the machine) so far, and it serves its purpose,” Longo said. “We’re excited that it’s there, and mostly excited to have a physical location. The construction is underway.”

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