The public library has long been considered an essential part of communities all over the country. But what happens as print materials go out of vogue? Will libraries falter and fail? Not if they adapt.
Many libraries already offer more than just the ability to check out books or look through old newspapers, as we detail in “Don’t Pay for These 10 Things: They Are Free With a Library Card.”
In fact, before you buy something that you might only use once, consider contacting your local library to see if it’s available there. You might be surprised to find a variety of useful and unusual items.
Following are eight examples of unusual things that some libraries lend out.
1. Cake pans
If you want to get into baking but don’t have the pans — or don’t have the room to store them — you might be able to get them from the public library.
While you can check out standard cake pans, it’s also possible to checkout novelty pans for specialty cakes.
Libraries like the Keokuk Public Library in Iowa and the Public Library of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County in New Mexico offer a wide variety of cake pans — from Christmas trees to dinosaur shapes — that can add a little whimsy to your next baking project.
Specialized sports equipment is among the items we cite in “13 Things We Buy and Then Almost Never Use.” But for those interested in winter sports, it might be possible to avoid buyer’s remorse by checking out snowshoes from libraries like the Millinocket Memorial Library in Maine.
It lends out both snowshoes and skis. In fact, its Katahdin Gear Library, which was founded in 2018, also lends out kayaks, canoes, mountain bikes and other outdoor gear.
Looking for just the right tool to get the job done? Check with your local public library.
Today, it offers more than 5,000 tools for lending, including a variety of carpentry and woodworking tools, concrete and masonry tools, power tools and gardening tools. Just about anything you can think of, from lawnmowers to sledgehammers, is available.
In fact, there are scores of libraries around the country that lend out tools. The Local Tools website offers an interactive map of libraries with tool collections.
4. Wi-Fi hot spot devices
Don’t have internet access at home? Looking to connect while on a trip? You might be able to borrow a Wi-Fi hot spot device.
The New York Public Library, for example, lends out hot spot devices for the whole school year to parents of children in the New York City public school system who don’t have internet access at home. The idea is to help kids get online to keep on schoolwork.
Other libraries, like the Chicago Public Library, lend out hot spots to more patrons but for a shorter time.
5. Mounted animals and animal skulls
Looking to display a beautifully mounted snowy owl, black-tailed deer or Chinook salmon in your home for a couple of weeks? Maybe you want an antelope or polar bear skull to supplement your child’s educational experience.
The Alaska Resources Library and Information Services can help. Thanks to a partnership between the library and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, it’s possible to check out mounted animals as well as animal skulls and furs from the library.
Do you enjoy beautiful paintings? If so, check to see if your library offers the ability to check out art prints.
For example, the Ann Arbor District Library in Michigan offers prints of famous works of art that you can hang in your home — from Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” to Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”
At the Minneapolis Art Lending Library, it’s possible to borrow various types of art by contemporary artists — including small sculptures, drawings and pieces by emerging artists.
7. Musical instruments
If you’re hoping to try playing a new instrument — without buying — you might be in luck. Ask your local library if it offers the ability to check out instruments.
For example, at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York City, there are plenty of traditional instruments, from tambourines to banjos and violins.
But there are also opportunities to branch out a bit. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers synthesizers, beatmakers, effects pedals and even recording equipment. That’s just about everything the modern musician could want. Oh, and you can even check out a ukulele.
8. American Girl dolls
There’s no need to spend a small fortune buying American Girl dolls when you can borrow them from the library — along with the books in the America Girl collection.
Some libraries, like the Arlington Public Library in Virginia, have programs that enable patrons to place a hold on dolls and take them home for a short period.
What interesting and cool things are available at your public library? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.