Milwaukie, Oregon City libraries offer 'things' to patrons
In eight libraries across Clackamas County, including Milwaukie and Oregon City, "checking out" is no longer a process reserved for books, CDs and other media.
Supplemented by the county's Sustainability and Solid Waste program, Milwaukie and Oregon City jump-started "Libraries of Things" last week. County officials see Libraries of Things as promoting sustainability by encouraging sharing and providing access to rarely used household items.
Through the program, most libraries in the county are providing people access to items that may be too expensive or impractical to purchase. Libraries of Things collect items such as kitchenware, musical instruments and games that patrons can check out with their Libraries in Clackamas County (LINCC) library card.
Oregon City Public Library, with its especially large service area of about 55,000 people, received the largest of the county's grants and has more than $8,700 to build a Library of Things. Denise Butcher, OC's library operations manager, said her staff was able to spend about $4,000 on 117 items in time for the launch. They plan to purchase more items this year once they receive feedback from patrons and get a sense of how popular certain items are.
"We're going to get some snowshoes and some more winter stuff soon," Butcher said. "We had been talking about doing a Library of Things for a really long time, at least since the library expansion (in 2016), so when this grant opportunity came along, it was perfect."
Milwaukie Adult Reference Librarian Sarah Roller said that Ledding Library has purchased about 100 items and spent almost its entire grant of nearly $7,300.
"We're making sure that we have all the necessary parts before we buy more items," Roller said. "Having this seed money will propel us forward on this project that the community is really excited about, and hopefully it's successful, which will help us ask for more funding."
Donations of household items from the public are not being accepted by either OC or Milwaukie currently for the libraries.
Dozens of people attended a sneak-preview event of the Oregon City Library of Things last week. Butcher said one of the attendees home-schools and was planning to line up in front of the library when it opened the next morning in hopes of checking out a microscope.
During the preview, Oregon City resident Sarah Kennedy admired several of the items on display, including a record player, expressing surprise at Butcher's comment that records are experiencing a resurgence in popularity.
"I was going to buy an air fryer, but then I wondered, what if I don't like it," Kennedy said.
Butcher told Kennedy that giving citizens the ability to try before they buy was exactly the purpose of the county's grant funding for the Library of Things.
If Kennedy decides to check out the air fryer or any other item in the Library of Things, she will have to return it within a week. She'll have to return the air fryer clean, or be charged a $5 cleaning fee.
Only one Library of Things item can be checked out on each library card at a time. And unlike normal items that have a 25-cent-per-day late fee, you'll be charged a $5-per-day late fee for Library of Things items.
Educators from the OSU Extension Service's Family & Community Health Program, which supplied food-preservation equipment to the collection, were available for questions at the sneak preview. Kennedy said she was intimidated by the canning equipment, but Christine Snodderly, OSU Extension volunteer family food educator, said that's exactly why they offer classes to the public.
"There were a lot of people walking out of that class saying, I can do this," Snodderly said.
Clackamas County conducted a survey of library patrons in January and February, receiving 3,700 responses to help library staff determine the best items to purchase for Libraries of Things.
With an especially high demand for tools in the survey, Milwaukie's library will have a few hand tools, including a rake and shovel in its collection. A crowbar and hammer come in Ledding Library's "demolition kit," and OC and Milwaukie both have stud finders in their collections. However, most libraries will not be including power tools in their Libraries of Things due to liability concerns.
"We've concentrated on the ones that are considered low-risk, so everything is powered by hand or battery, and we've purchased a battery-operated drill, an electric power washer and a tool you can use to find moisture in your home," Roller said.
Many items in Oregon City, such as a tent and food dehydrator, come with a box listing an inventory of pieces, including an owner's manual. When an item is returned, library staff will check to make sure all the pieces are returned and charge the patron who returned an incomplete set for the cost of buying replacement pieces.
"We're relying on folks letting us know if something isn't working," Butcher said.
Traditional media items can be put on hold from any Clackamas County library and picked up from any other library in the county. However, each library maintains its own Library of Things collection, so you must pick up and return items at their libraries of origin. Happy Valley, Gladstone and Oak Lodge libraries decided not to launch Libraries of Things this year, but may at some point in the future.
Libraries of Things
WHAT: Items such as kitchenware, musical instruments and games that patrons can check out with their Libraries in Clackamas County (LINCC) library card
WHO: Participating libraries include Milwaukie, Oregon City, Canby, Estacada, Lake Oswego, Sandy/Hoodland, West Linn and Wilsonville
HOW: Check out one item at a time for up to seven days and return the item to its library of origin
FEES: $5/day if returned after the due date; $5 cleaning fee for items returned dirty; full replacement cost of items lost or damaged
PLACE HOLDS: lincc.org, you will have three days to pick up the item from the library that owns it
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