After two separate articles about book vending machines appeared in my email, I decided to find out more about this trend. I had questions about how these machines are being filled, who is choosing the materials, and how often are the collections being replenished.
The articles that I read indicated that the majority of the
books and materials being offered in these machines are geared toward younger
readers, rather than adults. Some accommodate DVDs as well as books. A few of
the machines seem to be located in areas that have been described as “book
deserts”, or areas where there is no other access to these types of materials. The
machine in Spokane, Washington is located in a community center in a
neighborhood that does not have a nearby library.
Other machines are located near, or inside, library buildings. In Evanston, Illinois the vending machine is a temporary measure to fill in for the new library branch that is under construction.
The machine in Lafayette, Indiana is also located near a library. Its location is intended to provide access to library materials 24/7 in order to accommodate people who work late shifts and other people who want to check out a book after hours.
In Buffalo, New York there is even a book vending machine inside an elementary school that allows kids to earn tokens and choose books for themselves. Sounds fun to me!
The most comprehensive article I found was published online
in Urban Education. Two researchers studied
the use of book vending machines in Detroit, Michigan and Anacostia, D.C. over
the course of a summer. Their research revealed many interesting facts about
the types of materials that were most often selected by the users of these
machines. Their research also found that adult support was a strong factor in
improving reading test scores among the young readers they studied. A
short summary is available in the first article. The full text of the research paper may be available
online through your library’s databases.
Neuman, S. B., & Knapczyk, J. J. (2018). Reaching families where they are: Examining an innovative book distribution program. Urban Education. doi: 10.1177/0042085918770722
I was surprised to see how many locations have turned to the vending machine concept to provide materials and 24/7 access to books and other library materials. Some of the articles referred to these machines as 21st century bookmobiles, serving a population that has become used to constant access to materials at any time of day or night. Will this become a wider trend in libraries and will we see them in Ohio in the near future?
Jill Baird, Mansfield-Richland County Public Library