Barnard Elementary Principal Melanie Morey shows several of her students the new book vending machine the school had installed March 22.

Barnard Elementary Principal Melanie Morey shows several of her students the new book vending machine the school had installed March 22.

Photo provided by Patrice Rowbal

Barnard Elementary gets new ‘book vending machine’

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published April 8, 2023


TROY — On March 22, Barnard Elementary School became home to an unusual vending machine: one that dispenses books.

The school hosted a special ribbon cutting to celebrate the installation of the Troy School District’s first book vending machine. Much like a traditional vending machine that dispenses snacks or beverages, the book vending machine allows students to select a book that is then dropped into a drawer where it can be retrieved.

Barnard Principal Melanie Morey said that the goal was to not only provide more literacy opportunities to students, but to also help them grow their collection of physical books when it is often easier to get access to literature through e-readers.

“I think there are many ways for kids to have access to nonprint books, like tablets,” she said. “We want to make sure they have access to physical books as well. Many families have home libraries, and we wanted our students to be able to add to them. We also believe in providing a variety of books so children have choices and can enjoy a variety of genres.”

The vending machine was entirely paid for by the parent-teacher organization at a cost of $6,500, with an additional cost of a year’s worth of books, which was $2,500. The cost of adding new books will be included in the PTO’s yearly line item budget to replace those selected by the students each year.

Barnard’s reading specialists brought this idea up as a potential addition to the school prior to COVID. This year, the school’s PTO was looking for some new capital projects to invest in the school long term and thought this would make a great addition to encourage literacy and love of reading within the school. This is the first of its kind in the entire Troy School District.

“We were thrilled to finally receive the machine this month and be able to install and dedicate it appropriately during March is Reading Month,” said PTO President Brian Smiatacz.

“Typically, the PTO provides resources above and beyond our budget, extra toys for the playground or murals to highlight our core values, for instance,” added Morey. “This time, we met with our literacy team, and we agreed to do something creative by purchasing this book vending machine.”

The PTO purchased 500 books to stock the machine. On students’ birthdays — or half-birthday, if it lands during the summer months — they will get to visit Morey to receive a special Barnard Book Coin. They will then take the coin to the machine and pick out a book of their choice. There are reading-level books for all grade levels within the machine.

“It doesn’t take money. It takes a special coin,” Morey explained. “The students go to the vending machine after getting the coin from the front office, and they choose a book.”

Despite the machine arriving too late in this school year to celebrate everyone’s birthday, all kids still will get to use the machine before summer break. The PTO funded the purchase of 500 books that will be used at some point before school is out, and each student will get a coin and will have the opportunity to use it in the machine for a book of their choice.

“For this school year, we are making sure every student receives a book,” said Morey. “We’re starting the birthday thing next year. It’s the only way to ensure every student gets a book each year. … At this point, they can only get a book out on that special day.”

Morey wanted to thank everyone who made the acquisition of the new book vending machine possible. She stressed how it will be a great addition to the lives of students at Barnard.

“We are so grateful to the partnership we have with parents, represented through our PTO,” she remarked. “The resources they provide are going right back into the building and into the hands of children.”