From Cheetos to Cervantes in library vending machines

MADRID -- Residents are only 90-seconds to borrowing a library book, while they wait for their train.
Written by Jennifer Riggins, Contributor

MADRID--The newest trend in vending machines moves to a healthier alternative--books for rent. Now, Madrileños can catch up with the windmill-fighting man from La Mancha in just a few clicks on their way to work.

With the average Spanish person working from around 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.--exactly the opening hours of the Madrid public libraries--residents hardly have time to browse the stacks. The Community of Madrid is now testing a convenient book vending machine, as yet another service to makes sure Spanish citizens keep up with their reading.

Platform 1 of the Puerta del Sol Renfe track is the location of Madrid's newest "library," open seven days a week. During this pilot program, train riders can take out a book can using their DNI identity cards or their Community of Madrid or Bibliometro library cards. (Please watch the video above to see a quick tutorial by SmartPlanet guest American ex-pat Molly Scruta.)

This is all part of a movement by governor Esperanza Aguirre to promote reading through making books even more accessible. Last year, SmartPlanet talked about how the Madrid city and provincial libraries are in the process of combining, as a way to enact library efficiency and some of the EU austerity measures, without cutting jobs. Once this takes place, those with the City of Madrid library cards can also use the book machine.

The LibroExpress pilot program is just another way to streamline library usage, though this is the first step that includes human-free automation.

Commuters can grab a flier, which lists the 77 available titles, as they run to catch the metro. Once they make the decision, they can take out a book on their way home from work or on the way there the next day. The entire process takes roughly 90 seconds.

Users can take out a book for 15 days, with the option to renew for 15 more. Plus, if you don't trust the machine to give you record of the correct book or of your return, the machine gives you a receipt to hang onto, after each process and there is a hotline to report any concerns.

Many of the major Madrid Metro stations, like Nuevos Ministerios and Alonso Martinez, also have Bibliometro spots, which each have a few hundred books able to be taken out on the spot. Here, library users are also able to browse stacks and look at books they are interested in beforehand.

Most Renfe stations already feature for-purchase book vending machines, along with the usual soda, bottled water and snack machines. In addition, commuters often have three free in-Metro daily newspapers to choose from: "20-Minutos," "ADN-Plus," and "Que," in addition to, of course, the increasing prevalence of riders using iPhones and Kindles.

Clearly, Madrileños are turning the page for a good new year of reading!

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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