Staffless libraries are libraries that are—thanks to technology—accessible to the public, for certain periods, without the presence of staff. To use a staffless library, patrons must first register. They can then access the library outside staffed hours by scanning their library card under a keypad reader and entering their PIN.

Patrons also have to sign a waiver that legally indemnifies the employer against any lawsuits in the event of an injury or assault during non-staffed hours. (Ironically, no such waiver is required when the library is staffed.)

Where are staffless libraries being tested?

Right now, the Toronto Public Library has opened Toronto’s first staffless library by retrofitting the Todmorden Room branch with technologies designed to make professional library workers obsolete. A second TPL branch in Bloor West Village, Swansea Memorial, is slated to open staffless in early 2019. 

To help achieve this, the Toronto Public Library partnered with a private foreign company, Bibliotheca. Bibliotheca is a Swiss company specializing in library technologies such as self-checkout machines, staffless gate entries, library card readers and various “self-service solutions.”

In 2017, the Hamilton Public Library was the first public library system in Canada to operate a branch without staff during extended hours.

Toronto library workers sound alarm on ‘staffless libraries’