Libraries Connect With Community By Lending Unusual Items

Most people think of libraries as a place to check out books or DVDs, but NPR recently ran a story about the unusual items that public libraries lend.

Libraries have increasingly gone to creative lengths to continue to connect with their communities in the digital age. "What's the point of a library in the digital age? It's a question that makes librarians bristle. They are quick to remind you that they are not just repositories for printed books and DVDs. Regular patrons know this, but public libraries want to reach beyond the faithful. To that end, many librarians are finding creative ways to get people through the doors despite their limited resources."

For example, a handful of library branches in New York lend out fishing poles. "The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation provides the library with eight poles, and the local Fish and Game Club gave funding for tackle boxes."

Some may ask what fishing poles have to do with libraries? As one library director put it, "a library's job is to inform and enlighten, but also to connect its patrons with the community. Other libraries try to bring people in simply by offering things they might need around the house, like toys, pots and pans, tools — and even humans."

Another library created The Human Library where they cataloged people in the community who were experts in certain things -- like electronics or plumbing. If somebody has a question that these experts can help answer, they can check the human out.

"The Human Library is just a different way for library patrons to have what could be a transformative experience. Instead of reading stories, the patrons are hearing from people in their community, firsthand, face to face."

I love the idea of The Human Library experience. What a beautiful way to give back to the community. When the recession hit, many libraries saw a surge in patron use because the community was hurting financially, and the library was a place to come and use resources for free. Instead of paying a plumber hundreds of dollars to fix a leaky faucet, a patron can come and learn about it from an actual plumber and repair the sink herself. That's pretty amazing.

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