June 8, 2009 at 3:56 pm (1) ()

Someday, maybe I can be a skybrarian. Although a quick Google of the word “skybrary” reveals that its the name is already taken for SKYbrary, a reference portal for aviation safety knowledge. And I can’t call it a skibrary, because that might imply its a single point of reference for skiing. Since all it is is an idea at this point, I’ll stick with “sky-brary” and no offense meant to aviation safety.

Alright – I figured I’d just start this here as a place to put it. I’ve heard the term “skybrary” tossed around a couple times, and I’m sure plenty of librarians have considered the possibilities and difficulties of libraries in airports. I figured I’d just add my thoughts to the mix.

Basic impetus for a library presence in airports: People travel a lot. On airplanes. People sometimes read on airplanes – books, magazines, whatever. People who travel a lot are involved in business. Business people sometimes need up-to-date information, articles, reports, etc. Everyone who travels has the potential to need information at some point in their journey.

Problems with putting libraries in airports: Staffing – how much staffing, how many hours, at what level? Logistics – materials go out, but will they come back? Who’s in charge?

Ideas for solving problems:

You know those vending machines in mcdonalds with 1 dollar movie rentals? In China there’s a version of that type of setup that libraries use – the machines hold several hundred books that patrons can browse through and check out with their card. It also has the ability to hold books for people. People can return books to the machine also. Staff need only maintain the machine, restock it daily, put out holds, pick up returns. Article:

Put one of these in the 50 most trafficked airports in the US, ( ) staffed by local libraries, but funded through a national organization that organizes the whole thing. Books checked out from one machine could be turned in at another, or potentially at any public library, where they would be treated like an Interlibrary loan, and returned to the parent org. Holds would be more difficult to deal with, but at the start, holds would be fulfilled by the local library, treated like an ILL. Turned in anywhere, returned like an ILL, with the overarching national org as the authority if something comes back damaged, etc.

Next level: Start adding espresso book machines – two machines, side by side, would take up about as much space as a newspaper stand. Placed in a relatively centered location, it could be accessible to people on their way to their concourse, or to people with connecting flights. What’s the espresso book machine? Right – it’s a print on demand machine that prints and binds a book in several minutes. The books come from a database. Article:

Places like the Internet Archive have tons of scanned public domain books. has tons of plain text books, as well as audio recordings of books. Databases hold tons of articles, book chapters, etc. Materials under a certain page count would be printed from a normal computer printer. Over a page number, and they’re treated like books, and printed and bound for easier transport.

The Skybrary Card – people sign up for it just like a library card. Get access to services from all skybraries. Lost/damaged materials a billed in the normal way. Too many lost/damaged, and the card is blocked until they’re paid for, etc.

Upgrades to the system – databases, free wifi, timed internet access terminal separate from the catalog selection terminal. e-book downloads, audiobook downloads, music and movie downloads, or even add the 1 dollar movie rental machine to the mix, but free with their skybrary card.

Could some services be available to all for a fee, and free for skybrary card holders?

How would the skybrary be funded? Through a non-profit organization, or as a federal program?

That’s all I’ve got on this so far.


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