The libraries, they are a changing.
Most public libraries are offering much more than reading material these days. While music and movies have been attractions for decades, libraries are adding more and more items patrons can borrow to their stores of books, magazines, and newspapers.
Like tools. Baking pans and fishing rods. And seeds.
According to an article in USA Today, libraries are diversifying their offerings, “fighting to stay relevant in the digital age.”
The library in Ann Arbor, Michigan lends three kinds of energy meters, and science equipment like oscilloscopes and microscopes. In Pima County, Arizona, the library has created a flower and vegetable seed library, employing the old card catalogue cabinets to hold packets.
(Photo: Pima County Public Library)
My town library offers free eBooks, and lots of events to suit all ages, from children’s story hour to adult book clubs and classes.
The article about seeds and equipment reminded me of other unusual library offerings.
A small community center near where I lived outside of London sponsored a toy library. For a tiny (like 50 cents) fee, I could borrow some toys for a week or two and then exchange them for new ones. It was perfect for babies who seemed to tire of a toy after playing with it a few times.
Both of my daughters-in-laws borrowed their wedding dresses from a sort of library found in Jewish communities known as gemachs. Originally formed to lend money without interest, primarily due to anti-Semitism, the concept has grown into a wide-reaching community service. I accompanied one daughter in-law to the bridal gemach, a basement in a private home that held hundreds of dresses and accessories. For a minimal deposit to cover the cleaning costs, we selected a dress that she was able to have altered. My other daughter in- law borrowed Purim costumes from a gemach and I know their parents have visited gemachs to borrow baby equipment. Individuals form a gemach based on their interests; and from what I can tell, there’s nothing you can’t find.
Perhaps libraries of the future will begin to offer more and more items that can be checked out with a library card.
As a reporter years ago, I covered one town’s debate about whether to build an addition to its library. People didn’t want taxes raised to pay for it. Some felt there was no need for more space. The measure eventually passed, after several close town referendums.
Libraries as community centers seem to be one of the best uses for public funds.
Let’s hope they continue to thrive.
How has your library changed with the times?