3 Things I Learned about Educational Administration Research from a Book Vending Machine

a Book Vending Machine!?

I learned about a one-of-a-kind book vending machine located in a Canadian bookshop after reading an article published by a local news company.

The antiquarian bookshop The Monkey’s Paw, located in Toronto, Ontario, is home to the BIBLIO-MAT: an antique book vending machine that dispenses an old and interesting book randomly to patrons for only $2 (revision: due to popularity, the book vending machine now costs $3).

monkey’s paw, toronto book shop  photo by me

monkey’s paw, toronto book shop
photo by me

The BIBLIO-MAT, installed by Canadian designer/director Craig Small, is not only creative but a useful way for the bookshop to sell old and unusual books that may or may not meet the standards of the books on the shelves, but which are much too quirky and interesting to be thrown away. This is a unique way to sell books simply for the serendipitous feeling that whatever comes out of the BIBLIO-MAT is somehow meant for you.

Here is a quick video of the BIBLIO-MAT:

I became so fascinated with the idea of a book vending machine that I began to think about what a vending machine for educational administration books could teach us about research in this field.

Let’s call it the ADMIN-O-MATIC. Here are 3 things that it made me consider about educational administration research:

Makes the Invisible, Visible

An educational administration book vending machine, placed on a university campus, makes something that is usually invisible (administrative theory and unseen processes), into something visible. Something we can see and understand.

The ADMIN-O-MATIC could dispense books like Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Administration by Eugenie A. Samier and Richard J. Bates and Breaking into the All-Male Club: Female Professors of Educational Administration by Norma T. Mertz.

For a few dollars, patrons of the ADMIN-O-MATIC could get print copies of journals like the Journal of Educational Administration, Educational Administration Quarterly, or the Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy.

Of course, a few dollars would be much too cheap for some of these relatively expensive educational administration books, but it would be an interesting way to share educational administration & leadership theory in a unique way.

Disrupts Narratives

What is interesting about an educational administration book vending machine is the way it represents a physical disruption to the current narrative of educational administration, which is that it happens behind-the-scenes and is not well-understood by students, faculty, or even other administrators.

A (text)book vending machine like the ADMIN-O-MATIC has the potential to begin a new narrative about educational administration. We tend to distrust that which we can’t see, so what if we could interrupt harmful narratives about this field and re-think it in popular imagination? What is it we want people who may not understand administrative practices to know?

Sparks Conversation

Ultimately, the ADMIN-O-MATIC would spark important conversations between students, faculty, and even between administrators. What is the purpose of educational administrators in schools? How can administrators best support faculty and students? How do we translate administrative theory to practice?

And for educational administration researchers reading this, how can we make our research matter in the lives of people in schools? Why should others care about what we do?

BIBLIO-MAT by craig small photo by me

BIBLIO-MAT by craig small
photo by me

On a recent trip to Toronto, Ontario, I visited The Monkey's Paw, and purchased a token for $3 to use the BIBLIO-MAT (patrons of the shop are now limited to one token per customer as the machine is so popular).

The machine clinked and whirred and deposited a random book - Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne - in the tray below. Honestly, if I had seen this book on a shelf, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. But there was something about it coming from the book vending machine that made me want to at least open it and know more about it.

Under most circumstances, most people probably wouldn’t care much for a book on educational administration research (not readers of this blog of course, who probably have an interest in this subject).

For those who invest their time and money into education, they should ask questions and get curious about what education administrators do and how they can support them. And as for us researchers and practitioners, we should do everything we can to make our research accessible, understandable, and relevant to the public.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!