So I ran across an interesting article this week about non-book things that libraries are starting to do these days. I had no idea that libraries across the U.S. are literally redefining what it is that patrons can check out.
They have “updated the collection”, and I mean reinvented it entirely!!
For example, you can now check out “event” clothes (i.e. stuff for job interviews, graduations, proms, etc) from the New York Public Library. This means that people who don’t have ready access to this outrageously overpriced stuff can borrow them and return them when they’re done, free of charge! The goal is to provide ready access to things that people in the community might need.
Do people in the community need stuff for job interviews? Yeah, they do.
Do people in the community need suit jackets for graduations? Yeah, they do.
Do people in the community need fancy dresses so they don’t miss their prom? YES, THEY DO!
Libraries are also cataloging gardening materials like seed packets and spades, laptops, phone chargers, reading glasses, musical instruments (electric guitars, clarinets, flute, even the triangle), digital cameras and professional grade film equipment, bicycles and scooters and skateboards, puzzles, board games, and even cooking supplies. One library has started offering up reading lamps for three-day checkout so that patrons could use them outside at night. These are meaningful additions to the collection that people actually use!
This has also meant that there are more items available for kids and for teenagers, our most at-risk populations. There are toys and dolls, textbooks, homework supplies, pens and pencils, rulers, calculators, and craft kits. Some libraries are even offering museum and art gallery access to their patrons. The library should always be a space for people to come inside, learn, and grow. Librarians are feeding growing needs. It means they’re always on the lookout for what the community would benefit from the most.
Is that sometimes a selection of fuzzy blankets to keep you warm in the frigid study rooms? Yep!
Last year, American Libraries even posted a fun and handy map that locates “the library of things,” an interactive collective of interesting items that each state offers to their community patrons. It’s wonderful to see all the ways that libraries are working to better build up their patrons, subsequently building up their communities.
The point of a library is to be a place for the people. Serving the public doesn’t just necessarily mean feeding their minds. It means taking care of each other, having empathy, and knowing that sometimes a suit coat is gonna be crucial for a person who needs to ace an interview.
So, let’s all take a trip to our local library and thank those behind the counter for the non-bookish things they are supplying.