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Manager sees innovation in library’s future

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says he sees a variety of options for enhancing library services once the controversy over funding Evanston’s library is resolved.

Bobkiewicz says options could range from installing best-seller vending machines at commmunity centers and other city sites to increasing the use of online databases that residents could access from their home computers as well as from a library building.

In an interview with Evanston Now, the city manager noted that the city-owned Howard Street police outpost building is lightly used by the police and potentially could do double duty as an outpost for the library, perhaps along the lines of the reading stop the library operated this summer in a rented storefront at the Evanston Plaza shopping center.

The key thing, Bobkiewicz said, is to ramp up the user base for the library without having to dramatically increase costs.

Currently only about 10 percent of Evanstonians borrow materials from the library during a given year.

He said commercial companies could provide the book vending machines and keep them stocked — relieving the library of the cost of buying those books and then disposing of them once public interest in the titles has diminished.

He said he hopes Wednesday’s vote by the library board to plan for only a modest increase to the budget this year can lead to agreement on a longer-term strategy for more efficient and effective library services.

The book vending machine concept is already being used by the Contra Costa County, Calif., library system, where it’s called Library-a-Go-Go and uses equipment from a company that claims to have installed more than 3,500 such machines worldwide. In addition, the library in Palm Harbor, Fla. has announced plans to roll out a book vending machine system this month.

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