Goals/Objectives for the Book Vending Machine Project:

  • Provide a convenient location away from the library for commuters to check out and return library materials
  • Give community members more options for picking up and returning library materials outside of regular library hours; provide 24 hour service
  • Establish another presence in the community outside of the Library’s physical location
  • Tap into a section of the community who may currently be library nonusers
  • Increase reach and circulation of materials

Description of community that will be engaged:

The Book Vending Machine Project will mainly engage Town residents who commute very early/late to work and, as such, may find it difficult to make it to the library during its regular operating hours.  This service may also provide an opportunity for people to borrow library materials who, for one reason or another, may find it intimidating to visit a library or interact with people.

Action Brief Statement:

Convince the director and library board members that by placing a book vending machine and book return at the local train station they will be able to reach the community members who may not be using the library because of their early/late commuting schedule which will bring library services outside of the physical building and improve our presence in the community because it is important to try and tailor library services to accommodate as many community members as possible.

Evidence and resources to support the Book Vending Machine Project:

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy:

  • Mission: Introducing a book vending machine at the local train station will provide a convenient 24-hour location for picking up and returning library materials for those community members who are unable to make it to the library during the library’s regular hours.  The library’s book vending machine is a new opportunity to reach out to and connect with community members to show that our services are structured around their needs. It also increases the library’s presence in the community.
  • Guidelines for stocking:
    • The vending machine will be stocked with both regular and large print books. The selection will include both fiction and nonfiction and will focus mainly on new and popular titles and authors (e.g. New York Times Best-Sellers list).
    • The machine will also have a selection of audiobooks, DVDs, and CDs. Titles will, again, be selected by newness and popularity/demand.
    • Multiple copies of the most popular/in-demand books will be stocked.
  • Policy:
    • Users must have a valid library card from a BCCLS member library
    • A user’s card must be in good standing (fines less than $10.00)
    • Users may check out up to 5 items at a time
    • Lending period:
      • Books – 2 weeks (may be renewed twice if no holds exist)
      • Audiobooks – 2 weeks (may be renewed twice if no holds exist)
      • CDs – 2 weeks (may be renewed twice if no holds exist)
      • DVDs – 1 week (may be renewed once if no holds exist)
    • Items may be returned to the book drop at the train station or to the library
    • Additional policies may be set by the director and/or circulation supervisor

Funding considerations:

  • Costs to consider:
    • Cost of the book vending machine
    • Cost of a new book return with media drop (if it is not incorporated into the vending machine)
    • Cost of purchasing extra copies of books, DVDs, & CDs to fill the machine with
    • Cost of staff time spent traveling from the physical library to the train station to collect materials and replenish the vending machine
  • Funds for purchasing the machine and book return and implementing the service may be drawn from the programs budget, donations, fundraising

Action steps & timeline:

Timeline could take from 1-6 months, depending on time it takes for approvals, to hear back from companies, for shipping, etc.

  • Approval from Director, Board, NJ Transit (who owns the train station)
  • Research vending machine options, choose the type that fits most with the library’s needs, and get quotes from at least 3 companies
  • Approval of purchase from the Library Board
  • Place and receive order, set machine up, train all staff how to use the machine
  • If approval is not received from NJ Transit, alternative locations could include:
    • Memorial Park (1.8 miles from the library on the opposite end of town)
    • Sunset Park (1.2 miles from the library on the opposite end of town)
    • Directly outside of library (although this eliminates the convenience of having pick up and return options in a different location in town, this still offers a 24-hour option for those patrons who find it difficult to make it to the library during regular hours but still wish to borrow materials)


Staffing considerations:

The library is 0.4 miles from the local train station, which encompasses both NJ Transit trains and buses.  Google indicates that, on weekdays, the train station is the busiest between 6:00am and 9:00am.  Designated staff member(s) would collect library materials from the book drop each morning around 9:30am and replenish/rotate the material selection in the vending machine.  This time works because it is just after the peak period at the station and just before the library opens at 10:00am.  Depending on the capabilities of the machine, staff member may have a Chromebook and scanner to check in items onsite to replenish the machine with to avoid excessive toting around of items between the library and train station.  Once every week or two weeks (depending on popularity), materials will be rotated.

The designated staff member could check the drop on his/her way in to work in the morning.  Ideally, designated staff member(s) would also check the vending machine around 7:45pm (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), 5:45pm (Thursday, Friday), or 3:45pm (Saturday) to ensure a fully stocked machine for the morning.  These times are 15 minutes prior to the time the library closes and would allow for the staff member to leave a little earlier to swing by the train station.


All staff members (Director, 9 full-time librarians/staff, 2 part-time staff, 3 pages, 1 custodian) will be trained on how to work the machine so that they can communicate this information to any patron who asks.  Three or four full-time staff members will be assigned to maintain the machine.  The director and the 3-4 designated staff members will receive an in-depth training on the machine.  Training may be conducted by the manufacturer.

Promotion & Marketing:

The new 24 hour library service will be promoted on the library’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.  A slide will be added to the home page of the library’s website.  Additionally, the library will send a press release to the local newspapers and have flyers within the library.  Promotion and marketing for the book vending machine will also be, quite simply (hopefully), by its own physical presence and word of mouth.  The machine will be placed in an area that receives a huge amount of foot traffic.


The performance of the book vending machine will be evaluated at the 6-month and 12-month marks; it will continue to be evaluated on a yearly basis.  Additionally, reports can be run on the circulation stats of the items that are stocked in the machine on a semi-regular basis to determine which items move and which ones don’t.  This information can be used when selecting titles to stock the machine with to get the most circulation possible.

If this is a successful project, this means that we were able to reach a section of the community that previously was unable to utilize the library as much as they may have liked to.  We could then consider adding a second location across town.   If the project is initially a failure, we could move the location of the machine to another area of town to see if it is more successful there.

2 comments on “Emerging Technology Planning”

  1. This is a great idea! I wish I rode this train. Perhaps there would be a way for people to request titles through the library website, although someone else might get to the book before the requestee!

  2. I love that you decided to place the book vending machine by the train station! I think this is ideal as many people would love a good book to read while on the train. A great way to meet a community need.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *