52 Nontraditional Items To Check Out At Your Local Library

Arthur's Library Card with the words 'A Library of Things'

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.

A number of nontraditional things you can check out from a local library

50 cool things to look for at your local library

  1. Toolboxes and drills
  2. Cable TV alternatives like Apple TVs and Roku streaming devices
  3. Cake pans, KitchenAid mixers, and other baking supplies
  4. Tibetan singing bowls and meditation cards
  5. Santa Claus costumes
  6. Tennis rackets, basketballs, frisbees, jump ropes, hula hoops, and other sports equipment
  7. Passes to local zoos, botanical gardens, museums, or parks
  8. Telescopes, microscopes, and binoculars
  9. Outdoor games (Cornhole, anyone?)
  10. Multisensory kits for disabled community members
  11. Educational kits (These are great for young folks to learn about specific topics, from social justice to bugs!)
  12. Gardening and lawn care tools, like weed-whackers, rakes, and lawnmowers
  13. Native seeds! You can even plant your own garden through seed lending programs
  14. Sewing machines and sewing patterns
  15. Drones
  16. 3D printing pens
  17. Gaming consoles (brb, checking out a Wii Fit)
  18. Bounce houses
  19. Ukuleles, guitars, and other musical instruments (including DJ mixing boards!)
  20. Roomba vacuums
  21. Podcast kits
  22. Mobile wi-fi hot spots
  23. Check engine light code readers
  24. Radon testing kits
  25. Prom dresses
  26. Kindles and other e-readers
  27. Energy meters to check the energy use in your home
  28. Outdoor items like fishing, hiking, and biking gear
  29. Family field guides
  30. Tutors
  31. Art prints (that’s right — you can borrow art from the library to decorate your home and switch it out!)
  32. Mental health and wellness kits
  33. Access to online classes and career guidance
  34. Blood pressure machines
  35. Large-type telephones
  36. Paints and other art supplies
  37. Legos, puzzles, American Girl Dolls, and other toys
  38. Mah-jongg and other games
  39. Car seats
  40. Human stories
  41. Food samples from local businesses
  42. Coupons
  43. Maps and government documents
  44. World language classes
  45. Immigration, naturalization, and citizenship guides
  46. Memory kits for community members with Alzheimer’s or Dementia
  47. Digital media software (Are you telling me we don’t need to be paying for Photoshop?)
  48. Braille kits
  49. Kano coding devices
  50. Air fryers (The fact that your frozen chicken nuggets get a win from the library, too? Amazing.)
  51. Jumper cables
  52. Bike locks

A version of this article was originally published in The Local Edition of the Goodnewspaper.

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