It's too bad that I no longer enjoy the city of San Francisco, because they are doing some very innovative things with their libraries. First came their Book a librarian program, and now they are installing automated book machines in BART stations.
I was disappointed that the article starts with the notion of "saying goodbye to our neighborhod librarian." Such a negative spin on something that is actually so positive!
First of all, the book machines are obviously not a replacement for libraries, as they are of limited usage. They contain only the most popular books, and clearly there is a lot more to libraries than bestsellers. And of course it can't make book suggestions or answer your reference questions.
In addition to convenience, this could be a fantastic marketing tool. Every person walking past the machines during their commute will be reminded of the library. If they are smart about signage, they will post library hours for the closest branch, post about upcoming events, and remind people of other services available when they visit the library.
Finally, I was not surprised to learn that these machines are made by a Swedish company and have already been used in Scandanavia. If you want to learn more, here is a lengthy video which includes a lot of coughing.