A Fine Idea

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

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8 Responses to A Fine Idea

  1. Jeff says:

    We’ve discussed the no-fine/no-checkout combination before, just because I’d love to nix collecting fines. But the incentive issue looms large, and we were just never moved to trade one incentive for the other. This might be a perfect time to do it. We are loose about collecting fines, but of course there are a few abusers who get to say “next time” a dozen times before we insist. I hate telling someone they can’t check out because of a few bucks in fines. But if we trade money for behavior, it might be easier for us to insist, since we’re giving up the cash in the trade. Of course, there will be those who would rather be late as often as they like and pay fines. (In the early ’80s, I used the Morris County Free Library, NJ, and they did not levy fines AND they checked out art. You had close to a month before they sent out overdue notices. Once the notice was mailed, though, you paid the full amount.)

  2. Justine Shaffner says:

    I was thinking about this a little more, and remembered how we took the lead in training newbies on the web, so shouldn’t we also take the lead in training them in new technologies? Do a “23 Things” http://www.webjunction.org/social-software/articles/content/47942305 for patrons so they can understand a bit more about these terms that so many technologically savvy people are bandying about. Also, maybe set up an area in the library for people to Skype, esp. do video calls for those w/ loved ones in the military.

  3. jshaffner says:

    The LIBNET list serv (CO) has been talking about unique items for check out –

    Fraser Valley Library – Musical instruments

    La Veta Public Library – Bicycles

    Burlington Public Library – Cake pans

    Pueblo City- County Library District – Puppets

    West Custer County Library District – Crafter’s glasses for people
    who work on watches or small crafts, etc.

    Red Rocks Community College — Frisbees

    Front Range Community College Westminster –bones! to their nursing students for help in learning parts of the human body

    Grand County Library District — guitars (electric and acoustic, bass, kid-sized, and left-handed), and keyboards and drum pads.

    Lamar Community College — slide projector, classroom record player, and reel-to-reel tape deck / Bird books and a pair of binoculars

    Louisville Public Library –framed art prints

    Stratton Public Library- jigsaw puzzles

    Windsor-Severance Library District — pre-loaded MP3 players and portable GPS navigation units

    Telluride — Bicycles, musical keyboards and energy meters

    Paradox Community Library — sports equipment, knitting needles, crochet hooks and embroidery books with hoops, needles and muslin squares. We also have a few scrapbooking tools & supplies available.

    Prevention Information Center — organs and other body parts. visual aids for teaching and learning that includes anatomical models, interactive games, and table top displays for health fairs and other uses.

    Southern Peaks Library District – Delivers boxes of books to home childcare providers

    Jefferson County Public Library – tickets to cultural centers like the Wildlife Experience; the Colorado History Museum; Denver Museum of
    Miniatures, Dolls and Toys; Museum of Contemporary Art, etc. There is no cost to our patrons. See http://www.eventkeeper.com/code/events.cfm?curOrg=jcpl&curapp=passes

    (from Larry Oathout Director Tell City-Perry County Library) When I was in Illinois the state DNR gave a bunch of fishing poles to each library. We checked a few of them out from time to time.

    Thanks to partnerships between the Georgia Public Library Service and other agencies, ALL Georgia public libraries are circulating (or will circulate):
    1) state park/historic site parking passes (GPLS in partnership with the Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division (PRHSD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources; and
    2) Beginning in July all libraries will be circulating a Kill-a-Watt” Energy Detector Toolkit (GPLS in partnership with the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority)

    And finally, from the always unique Jeff Donlan of Salida (CO PL) I checked out a child to someone once. I slapped a barcode on the back of her hand and checked her out. (To her mother.)

    8/14 – Publib is talking about comparisons between AAA and libraries and someone mentioned a library that checks out jumper cables – I could have used those on several occasions, except I’d also need to check out someone who knows how to use them without getting electrocuted.

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  6. Cindy Salo says:

    That’s quite a list of items that can be borrowed from libraries! Who knew? Thanks for broadening my horizons.

  7. Pingback: Tireless Tallin | The Librarian is In

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