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'Robotic' Libraries Return To BART Stations, Shopping Center

EL CERRITO (CBS SF) -- Apparently replacing a librarian with an Italian robotic vending machine is a lot harder than it sounds, and it sounds hard enough, but today, the three Library-A-Go-Go machines are back up and running at El Cerrito Del Norte BART, the Discovery Bay Sandy Cove Shopping Center, and the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART station.

First installed 7 years ago, the $90,000 machines began having the normal problems that could be expected with one-of-a-kind vending kiosks. For the past year and then some, the three machines have been completely dark.

Until now.

The library team was lighting up with ideas to rekindle the concept, letting BART riders and shoppers once again tap into an instant shelf of 400 books for free lending.

The Contra Costa County Library system's Laura McKeegan tells CBS SF,  "With the new insides, software, regular maintenance, new books, and marketing the Library hopes the machine will be a success."

She adds, that after the long closure, she's not sure how long it will take before people re-discover the service saying, "Now that the machines are all back in working order, we look forward to seeing what kind of continued usage they will provide to their communities."

The library system purchased the three book vending kiosks from a Swedish company that had adapted them for the purpose. The Italian manufacturer had built them for  DVDs originally.

Getting help to maintain the kiosks from an Italian company in an opposite time zone proved futile, and the machines fell into disrepair.

Finally the libraries arranged to fly out a technician in January who upgraded the machines, replaced software, and trained the staff to oil, clean, and otherwise maintain them.

And, now new titles will be appearing every few months with many popular bestsellers available instantly.

Just swipe your card, and grab your book, 24 hours a day if you're at the Del Norte location.

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