Book vending machines: bringing books into the hands of rural ND residents

Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 6:49 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Many rural areas in North Dakota do not have public libraries within the town or even in the whole county, but the state has come up with a potential solution — book vending machines.

These Little Free Libraries help those in Bismarck, but now the State Library wants to bring more books to rural areas in a new way.

“A lot of our stops are at the rural schools, like the small country schools, but we go as far as Wing. So, that’s close to an hour away from Bismarck,” said Keli McDonald, head of the Burleigh County Library.

Although bookmobiles help many parts of the state, they only travel within their public library’s specific county.

“We have five counties with no public libraries within their borders,” said Mary Soucie, state librarian of North Dakota.

The State Library, along with the American Rescue Plan Act, have worked together to bring reading material to all parts of the state. The State Library has spent $913,000 to fund this statewide project.

“Taking the State Library out of our four walls into the counties where some folks don’t have access to a local public library would be a good way to use those federal dollars,” said Soucie.

The solution for library-less counties has cost $772,000, but Soucie says it is well worth it, and bringing books to those who cannot access libraries is priceless.

“We just want anyone in North Dakota who has a desire to read to be able to do that with as few barriers as possible,” said Soucie.

Book vending machines have made their way to seven counties identified as underserved by public access to books. They allow readers to use their state library card to check out books and return them, all with one machine.

The goal is to have the machines fully stocked and ready to use by April 23, just in time for National Library Week.

North Dakota is the first state to deploy book vending machines statewide.