Madrid subway library

I just came back from a trip to Madrid, where I saw this interesting idea – a miniature library module in a subway station. It seems like an ingenious way to expand the city’s library system – people go through the station every day, so it’s easy to pick up and then drop off a book. And it’s nicely designed, too.


  1. Mayor Ford is mooting the closure of library branches. We should be doing the precise opposite: opening libraries in locations such as transit stations where patrons congregate in high numbers. 

    Most of the material I get from the Toronto Public LIbrary, I order online. The items can be delivered to any branch. Likewise, it is immaterial which library I leave my returns at. A small TPL branch could be located at a kiosk, say at the Yonge and Bloor subway station. It need have minimal regular stock, as a pick-up shelf for holds and a returns depository would suffice for TTC users who do their library browsing and placement of holds online.

  2. TPL has a proposal for this type of kiosk as part of the Union Station Revitalization, its in the budget! We probably won’t see it till 2014/15 though.

  3. I consider the Union Station proposal as less desirable than a midtown location. A fair proportion of Union Station traffic originates from the 905 region. I believe that people who live outside of Toronto but nevertheless work within Hogtown’s boundaries are eligible for Toronto Public Library cards. Many of them have cushy, Bay Street jobs, and I don’t relish the thought of spending scarce city funds to make it easier for the affluent 905 crowd to use a Toronto service that they do not support through their personal taxes. This is at a time when TPL amenities are likely to be cut back in neighbourhoods that will disproportionately affect Torontonians who are economically-disadvantaged, yet do pay local taxes. 

  4. Interesting re. Union Station – here is some more information about it:

    I think a lot of the people who pass through Union are not affluent – they are also the people who provide services for the affluent Bay St. types. But whether they are 905ers, and if so whether should we paying for their library services, is a reasonable question. Still, it’s a cool idea, and not all that expensive, and could maybe be a pilot for other locations.

  5. Black Michael: A valid point, Bloor-Yonge would be ideal if there were room (even with nearby Reference and Yorkville libraries), or Dundas/Dundas Square. You are correct, library cards are open to residents, workers and students in the city, but this is a common policy across Ontario.

    But Union Station is in an area that’s booming with new condo construction and lost the gravy-laden Urban Affairs branch.

    Also, I disagree that GO train riders are necessarily affluent. Many are students at downtown universities and colleges; many office workers that take GO are low-level admin assistants, so far from all are well-heeled suits.

    I’d be okay with a nominal, reasonable fee for non-resident, non-student adult patrons.

  6. In addition to the staffed-kiosk style seen in the photos, automated ‘vending-machine’ style kiosks are also out there. These have a small stock of popular books that a passerby can choose from, and have the ability to hold reserves in advance (and, of course, take returns).

    Either type could easily find room in many high-traffic parts of the city.

  7. For many years the Montreal library system had a branch in the McGill metro station – it had, as far as I remember, all popular loanable books with little or no seating. It is now closed (for well over a decade) and Montreal public libraries are well below those in Toronto in numbers and services.

  8. Hey, I’m a 905-er who is neither affluent nor employed on Bay Street. In fact, I had to move out of my beloved Toronto because I could no longer afford to live there with my family. Now I commute into the University of Toronto a few times a month for classes and meetings. Please don’t fall into the mistaken belief that all 905-ers are wealthy! This just plays into the us-versus-them attitude that has contributed to the contentious politics that are now sweeping the GTA. 

    I would love a kiosk at Union Station! Although it completely flies in the face of traditional library practices, I would be willing to contribute to the operation of TPL through non-resident user fees. No problem. I just love and support the idea of making shared library resources available where I can get to them easily. I hate the idea of buying yet another book from Chapters/Amazon when the library has plenty to offer.

  9. I agree with your point that a Union Station kiosk would help compensate in a small way for the loss of the Urban Affairs library.

    As for the relative income levels of users of different transit systems, I am in a good position to comment as I worked for years with support staff on Bay Street. I noticed that admin assistants who used Go Transit would talk at the water cooler about their pools, second cars and Costco. Those who came to work on the TTC tended to be concerned with issues like rent increases. I’m exaggerating the 905/ 416 differences, of course, but they were often mentioned by my co-workers.

    Needless to say, out-of-town students at downtown post-secondary institutions will tend to use their college libraries rather than the Toronto Public Library. I was at Robarts Library today, and believe me, DVDs are frequently borrowed by students who have never taken a film studies course in their life.

    All of which brings me back to my original point: a transit library kiosk has little  to do with the townscape surrounding it. It isn’t really a neighbourhood library. The foremost criteria for choosing a location should be transit traffic volumes, and specifically, usage by large volumes of Toronto residents. Just as I have reservations about Union Station, so would I be leery of the Finch Go Station on the same grounds.

  10. “A library card is free to everyone who lives, works, goes to school or owns property in Toronto”

    I would be open to a non-resident membership for a fee but free membership should only be granted to those who are resident or paying property taxes through non-resident ownership.

  11. Yet another heated discussion over something that has no hope in hell of ever happening in Toronto. Madrid has 12 of these branches in 9 subway lines. How many do you think will be established in Toronto’s 2.5? Maybe one, half-assed implementation just so we can say “We got one of those too!”? Meanwhile, the TTC is a complete disaster.

    How about implementing a smart card instead of 1950’s tokens.. like the rest of the First World, before all this talk about fantasies?

    Please, wake up to reality.

  12. As far as I could tell, Madrid doesn’t have a smart card for its subway – just little paper tickets.

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