By Mike Pearson, News staff

So you’ve just dropped into the library but you’ve discovered the branch is closed for the day. That’s not necessarily a problem these days at Stoney Creek’s Valley Park location. The upper Stoney Creek Hamilton Public Library branch is the first in Hamilton to launch a new LibDispenser automated lending machine.

Dubbed Libby by library staff, the touchscreen unit is loosely based on the candy vending machine concept. It’s equally easy to use, with automated controls and a keyword search function. Libby is located in the lobby of the Valley Park Recreation Centre, near the pool area. Users can scan their library card, obtain either a book or DVD, and scan their card a second time to receive their item. The machine is available whenever the rec centre is open, up to seven days a week. Items can either be borrowed or returned using the same machine. About 600 library titles are available at any one time, including books and DVDs for adults and children.

Karen Anderson, HPL director of public service and branches, said the Libby machine is a pilot project that will expand the library’s reach. The Valley Park branch is considered under-sized for the area it serves, so the automated unit should help fill the service gap.

“It’s extending our reach to this community beyond our four walls,” said Anderson.

That begs the question of whether the LibDispenser could one day replace the brick and mortar branch altogether. Anderson doesn’t think so.

“I don’t see it as ever replacing the front line service,” she said.

Instead, Anderson envisions possible linkages with the city’s public works and recreation departments, which would bring the Libby machine to transit hubs and recreation spaces that aren’t directly linked to a library branch.

Donna White, a library assistant, said users shouldn’t feel intimidated by the technology.

“Kids love it,” she said. They’re the ones who get their parents into it.”

Libby was formally launched at the Valley Park branch earlier this month.

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