In this economy, we know people really need us, so it’s important to eliminate any barriers to access. That’s why I was pleased to read in Library Hotline that Delta Community Library in Alaska is eliminating overdue fines. I realize some libraries have long had no-fines policies, but this always made me a bit nervous – what incentive is there for people to bring materials back? Well Delta solved that problem by limiting checkouts when materials are overdue.
This got me to thinking about other non-traditional ways we can alleviate expenses for our patrons. I heard recently about a library that lends cake pans so all their patrons don’t need to buy the same clown or car pan just for one birthday celebration. When I worked in New Hampshire, museum and aquarium passes for families were much appreciated. I think they cost a little more than the normal pass, but they were in such demand we usually had a waiting list. You might even be able to work out a deal to get passes from your local state park. Another library lent artwork – their two month loan period was great for the chronic redecorator. I’ve heard of tool libraries, and I know libraries lend toys and board games too.
In this age of fast changing technologies, it’s hard to decide which you’d really like to invest your money in, plus it’s frustrating to buy the latest piece of equipment only to find three months later that it now costs a quarter of what you spent. Some libraries are lending out eBook readers or MP3 players, but this can be costly and you probably can’t purchase enough to fill demand, so consider an in-library-use-only area where patrons can try stuff out first (e.g. an iPod, Kindle…).
And often, people have records, tapes or have shot videocassettes that are languishing in a closet since they no longer have a stereo or VCR and so have to download songs or pay to convert their videos to DVD. I realize this could cause a storage problem, but maybe we should start lending obsolete equipment like record players and VCRs (I bet lots of patrons would be thrilled to donate theirs, especially as the equipment won’t be added to our overwhelmed landfills). Think of how much use your old typewriter gets at tax time (since the IRS still hasn’t provided online versions of 1099-MISCs that can actually be submitted to them).
So tell me, what odd items do you have available for checkout?
4/5 I just read that Princeton (NJ) PL is checking out Flip Video cameras that allow you take up to one hour of video! They also check out the Kill-a-Watt meters (see Cynthia’s comment under my 3/30 post Towards a Greener Library).
5/26/11 Utah Public Libraries are also lending state park passes now