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Libraries Are Great at Lending All Sorts of Things—Not Just Books

Lending libraries are now lending more than books

( WALTER ZERLA/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Libraries are reinventing themselves all over the place, becoming a co-working place here, going bookless there. In order to stay relevant, they're are capitalizing on their strengths, and one of those strengths is lending. But lending doesn’t have to involve books, as Fast Company reports. A handful of libraries across the country have branched into lending other objects:

Someone interested in knitting, for example, can check out needles alongside how-to books for a week to see if the hobby sticks. Or a parent can borrow a pole and tackle to gauge a child's interest in fishing before buying expensive gear.

Neiburger says that items in the "Unusual Stuff to Borrow" collection must meet three criteria: They're more expensive than an impulse buy; you can get good use out of them in seven days; and you don't need them often.

It seems like everything is available for checkout at these libraries, from cake pans to GoPros. A library in Ann Arbor lends everything from telescopes to musical instruments and art. A library in Illinois lends out expensive digital equipment, and in Oakland, library patrons can borrow from thousands of tools. 

Tool lending libraries have existed since the 1970s, but public libraries have an advantage that dedicated tool libraries don’t: space and a lending system already in place. Replacing books with other items, be they CDs, DVDs, or video games and consoles isn’t that hard for a library.

Of course, often e-books are also available to check out too. While younger people are, it turns out, avid readers, they don't necessarily think of libraries as an important source of reading materials, as the Atlantic writes:

Some 88 percent of Americans younger than 30 said they read a book in the past year compared with 79 percent of those older than 30. At the same time, American readers' relationship with public libraries is changing—with younger readers less likely to see public libraries as essential in their communities...it's the place, not the books available there, that young people cite as most important.

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