CHICAGO (STMW) – The Chicago Public Library’s very own version of Redbox could be coming to a CTA station near you.

Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey is exploring the possibility of installing vending machines at CTA subway and rapid transit stations that would allow commuters to check out a popular book or DVD without making a special trip to the library.

After testifying Monday at City Council budget hearings, Dempsey refused to say when the program might start, how it might be financed or how many machines would be installed.

She only would say that preliminary talks with the CTA are under way to mirror a vending machine program already under way in other cities.

”It would be bestsellers, DVDs and popular items, just like our popular library. You’d put your library card in, select an item, it comes out and you’d return it back to the same place or to any one of our libraries,” Dempsey said.

”Some of these vending machines store up to a hundred items. Some of them store more than that. . . . This is just another way to get materials into the hands of the public. It’s a new product, and we’re talking with our colleagues in other cities to see how it’s working for them. We’re just making sure it works well and that we have the funding to do it.”

Dempsey noted that the 245-square-foot library in the Water Works Building in the Water Tower Pumping Station, 163 E. Pearson, “out-circulates many branch” libraries after one year of operations.

”That’s how big the traffic is because people just want the convenience of being able to pick up a book,” she said, predicting that CTA vending machines could prove to be every bit as popular.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) welcomed the new concept.

”I know you have brick-and-mortar [library building projects], which are hugely expensive. Yet, everything is going electronic and mobile. I think the library [system] has to adapt also,” Tunney said.

Ald. Ginger Rugai (19th) noted that London’s Heathrow Airport already has library vending machines.

Asked what she likes about the idea, Rugai said, ”Convenience. Offering more resources to people who may not be able to get to the library. People are looking to read on the train. We’ve seen the popularity of movies [at vending machines outside grocery stores]. It’s a unique and clever idea.”

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)