These days, it’s not surprising to see all sorts of strange and unusual items in vending machines. Even on the consumer electronics front, it’s easy to spot vending machines sporting high-end earphones and even iPods. But what we haven’t yet seen is a vending machine that dispenses iPads.

Until now.

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Drexel University recently partnered up with the Free Library of Philadelphia to roll out vending machines that lets library card toting users check out an iPad for up to 4 hours of use. Remember being able to check out movies and CDs from public libraries? It’s just like that, but with a modern twist.

Security minded users can also rest easy knowing that each iPad is wiped clean upon return.

Librarians at the Free Library and Drexel selected the apps installed on the iPads to be part of a suite of tools, including Browzine, Hoopla digital, Mango Languages, Overdrive and Zinio. Other apps available on the iPads explore art, digital storytelling, early literacy, games, geography, music, news, photo editing, science, astronomy and video editing.

“Based on the success of the laptop lending kiosk in our library, self-service technology has proven to serve as an easy, attractive option for access to items we know our library users want,” said Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD, dean of Drexel Libraries.

So much for the bygone era of checking out, oh I don’t know, books. The only question left is, will students always return them after checking them out?

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