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Library Program Provides Patrons with Wide-Ranging and Unique Offerings

Think of it as Greater Lansing’s garage.

Where are those badminton and cornhole sets? In the garage.

Has anyone seen the laser line level and the metal detector? Check the garage.

I really need the button maker and weaving loom … like, right now – it’s a loom emergency! Have you looked in the garage?

Whatever you need at any given moment, odds are you’ll find it in that all-purpose repository of “stuff” known as the garage. That’s the basic premise behind the Capital Area District Libraries program called the Library of Things. Do you need it? There’s a good chance the Library of Things can provide it to you.

Capital Area District Libraries created its Library of Things in 2016, allowing adult library cardholders to check out items from the collection the same way they would check out a book or DVD. From home improvement and arts and crafts selections to games, musical instruments and things for kids, the Library of Things is an ever-evolving and growing collection of items based on the needs and wants of residents in the 23 municipalities CADL serves through its 13 Ingham County branches, explained CADL Executive Director Scott Duimstra.

“We’re not the originators of this. There are libraries across Michigan that have been doing this before us, like the Ann Arbor District Library,” Duimstra said. “What we did was take a look at the interests of people in the community to develop a collection, and the collection we have developed is pretty diverse.”

The overarching concept is to further fulfill CADL’s mission of promoting lifelong learning; however, people who use the Library of Things have gravitated into two primary camps. There are those who need an item for a limited use and those who use items as a way to test-drive a new skill or activity.

“A lot of the items we have available are kind of try it before you buy it. If you or your child is interested in learning a musical instrument, you can try one out to see if they like it,” Duimstra said, noting that the Library of Things includes everything from guitars and banjos to ukuleles and keyboards. “Then there are things like the sports games in the summer. If you’re having a weekend party, do you really want to buy a badminton kit or a bocce ball kit just for the weekend?”

One of the most popular items from the collection of the Library of Things is a mobile hotspot, which can be used virtually anywhere to get a wireless signal and connect to a Wi-Fi-enabled device. The Library of Things has 108 mobile hotspot units available, and Duimstra said it’s difficult to keep them on the shelves.

“Some of it comes down to an affordability issue, and some of it is because we have patrons in the more rural areas we serve who don’t have a commercial (internet) provider available to them. They live in an area where there aren’t enough people for it,” he said.

Duimstra said CADL uses community partnerships to keep the Library of Things growing. A collaboration with Michigan State University’s Abrams Planetarium not only provided the Library of Things with several donated telescopes, but the staff at Abrams beefed up the devices to better withstand the wear and tear that comes from multiple users. Similarly, the Capital Area Transportation Authority has teamed with the Library of Things by providing 30-day bus passes to the collection.

“The 30 days doesn’t start until the first time you use the pass,” Duimstra said. “The stories we’ve heard from that, in particular, have been truly amazing.

We’ve heard from people who had no transportation and used the pass to get to medical appointments.”

Amazement has been the general reaction from the community to the Library of Things, he said, adding that the program is part of the expanding definition of what a public library is and who it should serve.

“We have people who come to us who want to consume content, and we have people come to us who want to learn a skill or activity,” Duimstra said. “It doesn’t have to be either/or, but the Library of Things is appealing to what we call a nontraditional user, as well. We think it’s the creativity in learning that people find so appealing.”

Items from the Library of Things can be checked out of a CADL branch for two-week intervals. The collection is stored at the main CADL branch in downtown Lansing, so several additional days’ notice is needed to deliver items from the Library of Things to outlying branches. Instructions on how to set up and use items from the Library of Things can be found on the CADL website. For more information on the Library of Things at Capital Area District Libraries, visit cadl.org.

 


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