As iconic cartoon aardvark Arthur Reed once said: “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.”
While America’s libraries are an oasis for accessible information, educational opportunities, cultural connection, and safety for marginalized communities, they’re also just a really great place to be.
Libraries are an integral element to any community and go beyond the stacks of fiction (even though grabbing a good ole’ rom-com read isn’t so bad, either).
Whether you’re stopping into your local library to check out a book, join a zine-making class, or even to grab a free pass to a nearby art museum, we can almost guarantee there’s an offering at your library that you haven’t even discovered yet.
“Libraries are intended to help people live their very best lives,” Maria McCauley, the director of the Cambridge Public Library in Massachusetts told the Christian Science Monitor. “Nontraditional items broaden that mission.”
These nontraditional collections are referred to as a "library of things," offering patrons access to various creative tools on loan.
“Sometimes people don’t just need a book about sewing – they need the sewing machine too,” Sacramento librarian Lori Easterwood wrote in a state grant.
As the unofficial fan club of libraries everywhere, we’ve compiled a list of some of the unique offerings from libraries across the U.S. so you can deepen your appreciation for these cultural institutions — and hey, maybe get a free packet of native pollinator seeds out of the deal.
As a note: these items may or may not be available at your local library, but they are an option to patrons in some libraries in America! Some items might also be very specific to the community they serve.
Even if your local library doesn’t carry some of these options, bring it up next time you’re there — we’re almost positive they’ll try their best to get you what you need.
50 cool things to look for at your local library
- Toolboxes and drills
- Cable TV alternatives like Apple TVs and Roku streaming devices
- Cake pans, KitchenAid mixers, and other baking supplies
- Tibetan singing bowls and meditation cards
- Santa Claus costumes
- Tennis rackets, basketballs, frisbees, jump ropes, hula hoops, and other sports equipment
- Passes to local zoos, botanical gardens, museums, or parks
- Telescopes, microscopes, and binoculars
- Outdoor games (Cornhole, anyone?)
- Multisensory kits for disabled community members
- Educational kits (These are great for young folks to learn about specific topics, from social justice to bugs!)
- Gardening and lawn care tools, like weed-whackers, rakes, and lawnmowers
- Native seeds! You can even plant your own garden through seed lending programs
- Sewing machines and sewing patterns
- 3D printing pens
- Gaming consoles (brb, checking out a Wii Fit)
- Bounce houses
- Ukuleles, guitars, and other musical instruments (including DJ mixing boards!)
- Roomba vacuums
- Podcast kits
- Mobile wi-fi hot spots
- Check engine light code readers
- Radon testing kits
- Prom dresses
- Kindles and other e-readers
- Energy meters to check the energy use in your home
- Outdoor items like fishing, hiking, and biking gear
- Family field guides
- Art prints (that’s right — you can borrow art from the library to decorate your home and switch it out!)
- Mental health and wellness kits
- Access to online classes and career guidance
- Blood pressure machines
- Large-type telephones
- Paints and other art supplies
- Legos, puzzles, American Girl Dolls, and other toys
- Mah-jongg and other games
- Car seats
- Human stories
- Food samples from local businesses
- Maps and government documents
- World language classes
- Immigration, naturalization, and citizenship guides
- Memory kits for community members with Alzheimer’s or Dementia
- Digital media software (Are you telling me we don’t need to be paying for Photoshop?)
- Braille kits
- Kano coding devices
- Air fryers (The fact that your frozen chicken nuggets get a win from the library, too? Amazing.)
- Jumper cables
- Bike locks
A version of this article was originally published in The Local Edition of the Goodnewspaper.
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