Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ban Vending Machines!

Why do libraries insist on having vending machines? I mean really. Why? Do we get a percentage of the vending revenue? No. Do we get free snacks? No. Do we have any control whatsoever of the vending machines? No. Do we get tons of grief from patrons about the vending machines? Yes.

Now staff vending machines are okay. If the vending machine is in a staff only spot, that’s fine. But why set any out for patrons? The patrons think because the vending machine is in the library that we librarians are somehow the vending gods, but we are not. We aren’t even demigods in the vending pantheon.

Why do we allow these false gods into our sacred temple of free information? These little altars of commerce negate all that we stand for. A patron can check out all the great books of literature free, but Buddha save you, if he loses seventy-five cents to the vending machine.

Ban vending machines!

The cops have been called twice this week to Library X due to the vending machines. The first incident was during the overnight. A student thought it would be fun to rock the drink machine and make a case of drinks fall out. He wouldn’t listen to staff when ordered to stop or cared about the riot act read to him. The surrounding students didn’t help matters by snickering over the whole ordeal especially when the overnight staff person went back to collect all the drinks to give to the vending machine person when he came by later that night. But our new overnight person has connections. She was a UPD dispatcher before coming to Library X. She called a UPD friend and had the officer come in and read the riot act to not only the student who’d messed with the drink machine but also all the students that had laughed at her. That was pretty awesome.

Tonight, I got a report that the snack machine on a lower floor had been vandalized. The glass front had been completely shattered. There was glass everywhere. I called UPD to come by and take a report and went down to look at the mess, and boy was it a mess! Glass was everywhere. I got a broom and dustpan and started sweeping up.

One odd thing about this vandalism was that it didn’t look like anything was actually stolen. Sure, there were snacks on the floor, but no packages were actually missing. It makes me think that maybe the vandalism wasn’t intentional, but can’t be sure.

The UPD officer that came out was luckily a big burly guy so he was able to turn the machine around to face the wall so students wouldn’t be tempted to take a five finger discount. None of this would’ve happened if we didn’t have vending machines.

Having vending machines in the library seems a much bigger headache than not. The patrons would be extremely pissy when they noticed the machines were gone, but they’d learn to deal. They could still bring full course meals into the library, bring whatever snacks and drinks they wanted, and there would still be free food giveaways throughout the year. The relief of no vending machine complaints would be such a big gain for library staff and faculty. I have to wonder why we put vending machines in the building in the first place. I know the obvious answer. It’s because patrons wanted it. But where do we draw the line on giving patrons what they want? They want a pizzeria in the library too. Are we going to get a pizzeria? What about a DJ spinning house jams? Yeah? What about a nudie bar with pole dancers?

Many academic libraries are already putting coffee shops in the library. So all day at the reference desk, you get to listen to coffee grinding and smell it brewing. I like the idea of a coffee shop near a library, but in the library? Big Research Library has a coffee shop. I’ve tried to use it a few times. Usually the line’s too long, they aren’t accepting plastic that day, or the drink I want is not available, but every time that I went, the place was crowded and the sound deafening because everyone was shouting to be heard over the machinery. I can’t imagine what it would be like to work within ear shot of the place for eight hours. It would drive me batty. (And then I’d fly into the rafters, and animal control would have to come tranq me.)

This is all because of vending machines. By letting them in, we let commerce jam their foot in the door, and more stuff is going to try sneaking in. We’re going to get that pizzeria, the DJ, and the pole dancers. You just watch. The only way to stop it is to slam the door on commerce’s foot and keep the library the free information temple it was supposed to be. Exorcise the commerce devils. Purify the library temple.

Ban vending machines!

Addendum:
Here's a view of the flipside.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Edward S. said...

We had a Coke vending machine in the public library I worked at before, and we did get a percentage from the sales and got to choose what drinks were in it. However if anything went wrong clients complained to us, despite the signs saying to call this number. One client opened a can and found half a cockroach in the can...I stopped drinking Coke that day.

11:24 PM, September 26, 2007  
Anonymous arkham said...

I don't really get vending machines in libraries, either. But then, I'm used to libraries where they don't want you to bring in ANY food or drink. Bottled water, maybe.
I do like the pole dancer idea, though.
(just kidding, I don't REALLY advocate pole dancers in libraries)

7:41 AM, September 27, 2007  
Blogger Vampire Librarian said...

Edward,

If we got a cut of the vending money, Library X would be able to afford major renovations. The mark up on this stuff is just ridiculous.

Arkham,

The pole dancers wouldn't be too unusual. I mean pole dancing aerobic classes are offered.

10:30 PM, September 27, 2007  
Anonymous arkham said...

"The pole dancers wouldn't be too unusual." Heh. Well, I'd think they would be in a library...but then, the libraries I've worked in seem boring in comparison to yours, so maybe I just haven't been in the RIGHT libraries.

7:51 AM, September 28, 2007  
Blogger Katya said...

I've always been glad that we only have vending machines in our staff lounge that has a lock on it. The staff is bad enough about complaining to Circ that the vending machine cheated them even though the numbers to call are right on the machines. I couldn't imagine students! I would like a coffee shop either near or in the library though.

3:08 PM, September 28, 2007  
Blogger Vampire Librarian said...

People cannot seem to stop themselves from complaining about a vending machine to the nearest authority, can they? And it doesn't matter at all if the authority has absolutely nothing to do with the vending machine.

I have to say the glass was replaced very quickly. By the next day, the machine was back in business. I was impressed.

8:33 PM, September 29, 2007  
Blogger Potato said...

At UofT we had smart card chips in our library cards that we could load with cash and use on the photocopiers ... and the vending machines. It was such a pain to have to get a new library card when the vending machine ate mine.

4:48 AM, October 03, 2007  
Blogger Vampire Librarian said...

Potato, I hope you didn't have to pay for replacement.

12:33 AM, October 04, 2007  
Blogger Tom said...

J Forensic Sci. 1990 Mar;35(2):490-2.
Killer pop machines.
Spitz DJ, Spitz WU.

Michigan Medical Legal Research and Educational Association, Inc.

Abuse and misuse of soda vending machines has resulted in a considerable number of injuries and deaths. The machines fall forward when rocked or tilted and crush those in front. These accidents are all preventable by a simple and cheap device. There should be a law compelling safety requirements for these machines. This is a report of a recent case in which a young man was crushed to death.

PMID: 2329341 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

8:03 AM, October 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There should be a law banning people from rocking and tilting vending machines.

9:39 PM, November 15, 2007  

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