Library Vending Machine

Cari (@myschoollibrary) from the Centered School Library tweeted a fabulous Pin recently. It was of this wonderful gumball machine that had been transformed into a poem dispenser.

Source: via Dawn on Pinterest

I tried to find the original source for this little gem, but had no luck at all. Instead, fate took over and the the following day I had a bit of time on my hands. What better way to spend a snow day than shopping on ebay? I started an intense search to see how cheaply I could find a gumball machine that would really work.

As I read descriptions of various machines that have been made, I found one that was able to vend 1-inch acorn capsules. These are available for sale on amazon (and probably other places). Finding one with a new lock and key seemed to be a plus as several were selling with no key available.

Less than a week later I have a vending machine filled with jokes and riddles in the library! I was able to make the machine free spin so it can be used without quarters. I keep a jar out for students to recycle the capsules.

I hope to mix up the content of the machine to try poetry, book recommendations, Dewey number suggestions, or trivia questions. I would like to create a station in the library where students can make their own contributions.

What wacky projects are you trying in your library? 


  1. How about putting QR codes in the machine? Great ideas!

  2. Fun! I missed that pin. Though I would be nervous to get one cause of the wall-less we are in an open hallway thing. Stuff walks away. :/
    Maybe just a couple random ones like “You can check out an extra book today” or “The next time we get some new books you get first pick for checkout” or every once in a while maybe even a giveaway book?

  3. Wow! I pinned it and thought about it, but you made it happen! I’ve gotta get over to Ebay now, maybe Craigslist. Our students would LOVE this! Thanks for sharing the details.

  4. Wow! I love this idea. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hi
    When do the kids get to use the machine? Is it a “prize” they win or can they use it any time they want?


    • For the past two weeks it has been a ‘prize’ because I had quarters. I didn’t want the students to pay their own money (although I’m not adverse to a fundraiser! I just don’t have permission for that). But, as of this afternoon, I’ve got it configured to ‘free spin’ so they can use it when they want to. I’m going to see how it goes… If they recycle the capsules and I don’t have to refill it every other day then I’ll probably leave it completely open. I’ll be sure to post a report in a month or so. We’ll see if I have my hair left!

  6. I know your students are loving this! Kudos for turning the idea into reality! I’ll be watching for an update on how it’s working out, and whatever creative things you might put inside it!

  7. I know your students are loving this! Kudos for turning the idea into reality! I’ll be watching for an update on how it’s working out, and whatever creative things you might put inside it!

  8. Very, very cool!

  9. What a fabulous idea! You could make it even more interesting by adding colorful urns to some of the capsules like erasers or mini highlighters! Love the suggestion of having kids submit poetry or book recommendations for the capsules.

  10. I suspect this is the original posting of the “poems vending machine”

    It’s a bookstore in San Francisco and they charged 50 cents!

  11. shoshana says:

    Hi! My colleague came up with this same idea as a Readers Advisory tool! We were curious about how you rigged it to be free. Would you mind sending me an email letting me know how you did it? Thanks so much!!

  12. David Krausman, an MFA student at Chapman University, was the inventor of the machine that inspired you! Source:


  1. […] April 24 is Poem in Your Pocket Day! Make a display of pockets, and stuff them with short poems written on rolled up pieces of paper that patrons can take with them,  or leave out supplies where they can write their own poems and stash them for others to discover. You could do a standard bulletin board one, but what I really want to do is find a vintage small plastic toy dispenser to fill with poems like this one. […]

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