Friday, February 27, 2015

Drone operated inter-library loans and document delivery

On my weekend break from dissertation writing, an idea emerged to me from out of a conversation with my wife about the future of courier services. I do not know if you are all familiar with the news stories about experiments with drone-operated courier services. If not, you might be pretty interested in looking at these news articles about recent companies that have been launching drone delivery services (Hern, 2014; Howarth, 2013; Weiss, 2014). All of a sudden, the crazy idea dawned on me: "What if libraries could offer drone interlibrary loan and document delivery services?"

The argument for such a service must first face the opposition of those who argue for the use of the Internet and e-resources for delivering information in the 21st century. After all, the Internet is one of the cheapest means of distributing information.

However, I would argue that the premise of using the Internet to serve our clients is useful to a point. For one, let us assume that not all library users possess e-devices or even Internet connectivity. Further, persons without the skills to use e-readers would also encounter this as a barrier to using e-resources. A second problem is that some resources are not yet in electronic format, although this is changing with scanning services and e-publishers republishing content in electronic formats.

It is still early yet, and drones while potentially useful, are still in the early stages of adoption by businesses. Libraries perhaps will not see the application of drones circulating library materials over some distance to the users for many years to come, but it is a good time to start thinking about it. Even if libraries do not deliver resources to users using drones, there might be a potential for public library systems to use drones to deliver resources to branch libraries or for libraries to engage in interlibrary delivery using drones to other library systems. As long as some library materials continue to exist in a tangible media or format, it may be still relevant for librarians to consider applying the new technology of the age to getting the user the information in the format that the user prefers. I would also consider this a great experimental opportunity for academic libraries serving students in distance education.


Hern, A. (2014, September 25). DHL launches first commercial drone 'parcelcopter' delivery service. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Howarth, D. (2013, October 16). "World's first" drone delivery service
launches in Australia. de zeen. Retrieved from

Weiss, R. (2014, September 26). Germany's post office beats Amazon and Google with launch of world's first drone delivery service. National Post. Retrieved from

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