A Better Inland Empire took note of the federal government potentially paying more for a library book vending machine at the Fullerton Transportation Center than what similar equipment sells for in the marketplace. The Fullerton Public Library installed the machine last summer which allows Fullerton area train and bus riders an option to borrow select titles from the public library without having to set foot into a physical library.
The idea is certainly noble. Giving more people free access to reading materials is very productive for education and gives regular commuters an incentive to continue using public transportation to get to/from work or school. However, the concept of expanding public library amenities beyond the building's walls may have fiscally played out better through a public-private partnership with a private retailer within the station area.
As mentioned, the federal government might once again be guilty of wasteful spending. The price tag for the book vending equipment was a whopping $35,000; the feds paid for that through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. At Aliexpress.com, similar equipment sells for about $5,000-$8,000 with shipping. The cost to convert the coin and dollar slots into a library card reader should not have cost more than a few thousand dollars. A small outdoor industrial book drop would be $3,000-$4,000 according to the marketplace. This does not add up to $35,000. This is another example of why federal spending needs to be policed better. $35,000 for a train station book vending machine certainly warrants a public audit.
To be fair, being able to complete government-related business remotely is a sound idea and deserves further exploration. Expanding the public's exposure to worthwhile reading material is certainly a productive option. Public-private partnerships is a practical means. The concept has worked before with private retailers selling RTA bus passes and is fiscally friendly.