Check This Out: Borrowing More Than Books

By Lyndsay Forbes, Project Manager and Grant Specialist at the MBLC

As libraries have evolved over the years, so have the ideas of what they should collect and lend to their patrons. A visit to your local library today will offer so much more than books. It’s not anything against books, I promise. Sometimes the best way to meet a need is with something that’s a bit outside the book shelf.

Libraries have always made it their mission to make information accessible to all. To keep up with that goal, you have to be aware of how people are getting their information. Many libraries lend out broadband mobile hotspots. This device enables you to access the internet for free from any location. Internet access is vital in today’s world. Options like being able to borrow a mobile hotspot can help fill a gap among users.

Learning and libraries are natural partners. And sometimes the best way to learn is hands-on. With help from an LSTA grant, the Middleborough Public Library created STEAM backpacks and teacher kits you can take home. Are you on an astronomy kick? You can check out the night sky with a telescope from a nearby library. By approaching learning in an innovative way, libraries can provide additional means for exploring what interests you.

Libraries provide rich cultural and educational opportunities, both inside and outside their walls. One very popular and longstanding option you may already be familiar with is a museum pass program. Sign up at your local library to borrow a museum pass and get discounted or free admission to area museums, such as the Museum of Science or the Museum of Fine Arts. The Department of Conservation and Recreation ParksPass is also available at many libraries. This pass gives free parking at more than 50 facilities in the Massachusetts State Parks System that charge a day-use parking fee. Offsetting the cost of visiting these great places allows these experiences to be more accessible to a wide variety of people.

The option to try before you buy is another reason for offering a non-traditional collection. Want to test out your ukulele skills? The Forbes Library in Northampton has a variety of musical instruments it lends to card holders. Now you can practice at a basic level before making the jump to buy that banjo. The upstart cost of activities can make them out of reach for many individuals. Lending items like musical instruments helps break down these barriers.

The unique collections available can help you by providing items you’d use occasionally but you don’t want to (or can’t) store. Borrow a sewing machine from the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington when you have some mending to do. Get some friends together and ham it up with Reading Public Library’s Karaoke Machine. Bake all the cakes with the help of Brookline Public Library’s cake pan collection. By expanding the idea of what to lend, libraries take resource sharing to a whole new level.

Libraries strive to provide a place to explore ideas, connect individuals and groups, offer cultural and educational experiences, foster creativity, and enhance lives. With such lofty goals, you can see why today’s library goes beyond books.

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