Public Libraries in Smart Cities and Communities Toolbox
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Book Vending Machines / Media Kiosks
To make library’s resources available to all residents, even if they cannot access the library building, book vending machines may provide convenient library services in locations throughout the city/community. They make physical collections accessible outside the library regular business hours and can go a long way toward providing access for people who are unable to make it to the library.
Whether it is securely storing holds for 24-hour access or making portions of a collection available at offsite locations through a vending machine or an automated small branch, improving access outside traditional library hours can help underserved patrons or those who do not live close to where the library is take more advantage of their library.
To deploy such book vending machines, your library may want to take several aspects into consideration. The first one is the location to deploy book vending machines. There are many suitable spots in the community where people gather or wait that could serve as good locations for a machine. Try train stations, shopping centers, doctor offices and health centers, major tourist locations, and town centers.
You may also want to consider placing book vending machines outside parks and schools where young children will be the primary users. Consider placing book vending machines distributed across the city to cover a wide range of city territory and population, so more residents may have access to library resources near their neighborhoods.
While it may take a long time before you can afford to deploy book vending machines in various spots in your community, your library could start by placing one machine outside the library building. In doing so, you would be serving patrons outside the regular hours, which may allow your patrons to take more advantage of the library resources.
In addition to locations, the second aspect to think about is the function and content of the book vending machines. There are many different types of book vending machines in the market. Their core function is to dispense books and accept returns. Some book vending machines are also used to circulate CDs, DVDs, video games, audio books and other library materials.
In addition, some machines may be equipped with Wi-Fi hotspots, becoming media kiosks that allow patrons to interact with the machine via a touch screen and review the library catalog through a user-friendly menu to place holds, and check out physical and digital materials at any time. How you use (and locate!) your book vending machines will depend on your goals in your strategic plan. For instance, if one of your strategic goals is about digital inclusion, you may want to invest in a vending machine that lends Wi-Fi hot spots. You may place it outside the library to make sure that people who cannot access the building during opening hours, can still have access to Wi-Fi and to the Internet.
To deploy book vending machines, you will need to consider different strategies to secure funding and resources for this technological investment. More importantly, you need to maintain the infrastructure and circulate the content in those machines. The logistics of managing those book vending machines is important to ensure that your patrons can enjoy reading and browsing again.
In terms of those logistics, there are several important aspects for you to consider. First, you may want to consider how long before you will change the books inside the machine or what types of books are more popular to the expected users. This may vary depending on the location and primary users. For instance, book vending machines in the train station may need changing more frequently since more people may borrow books and materials.
Second, you may need to consider who will be in charge of taking care of returning and changing books and other materials. These people could be your core library staff or volunteers and managing the book vending machines could be part of their responsibilities. However, if your library has limited staff or volunteers to fulfill this task, you can also consider partnering with the train station manager team, park managers, or management team of the location to place book vending machines to work together on managing the book vending machines.
General resources on book vending machines:
All-Hours Access Automated 24-hour access solutions: https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2019/06/03/all-hours-access/
Helping Users Help Themselves with Self-Service Technologies: https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=helping-users-help-themselves-with-self-service-technologies-product-watch
Efficiencies: Self Service: https://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/campaigning/efficiencies-2/efficiencies-self-service
Enhancing the Self-Service Library with Visual Workplace Principles: https://creativelibrarypractice.org/2019/07/14/enhancing-the-self-service-library-with-visual-workplace-principles/
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