Library of Things is a Clackamas County borrower's dream
A karaoke machine, an air fryer, musical instruments and more may be available for checkout soon at eight libraries in Clackamas County.
A collection of nonstandard items housed at a library is commonly called a Library of Things, and in the coming months the eight public libraries each plan to open one in partnership with the county's Sustainability and Solid Waste program.
The libraries involved are Canby, Estacada, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Sandy/Hoodland, West Linn and Wilsonville.
Although not part of the Library of Things program at the moment, the Gladstone Library checks out ukuleles and the Oak Lodge Library has seeds for checkout.
Presently, patrons in Clackamas County are being asked to fill out a survey so that participating libraries know what people would like to obtain from each facility.
Once librarians have enough input from the survey, they expect to have their Library of Things up and running this summer.
The survey runs through Feb. 28, and patrons are urged to visit bit.ly/LibraryofThingsInput to contribute ideas.
Clackamas County's Sustainability and Solid Waste program supports the Library of Things in the belief that the program helps promote a more sustainable community.
"These collections support a growing trend of people downsizing and decluttering their lives from the 'stuff' we tend to accumulate," said Stacy Ludington with the Sustainability and Solid Waste program.
"It takes natural resources such as land, water, fossil fuels and metals to grow and manufacture the items people buy. However, if 10 people share one item, the energy and resource consumption needed for everyone to enjoy it decreases significantly," she said.
A Library of Things could include "sewing machines, GoPro camera, level, cake pans, metal detector and games for checkout with a library card, just like books and movies for free," said Sarah Roller, reference librarian at the Ledding Library in Milwaukie.
She noted that library staff members are always looking for new ways "to support the community's interests, their drive to learn and increase their access to technology and other resources. We think a Library of Things will help us do that."
Roller said that "as people downsize and opt for a more minimalist lifestyle, these types of libraries become more important and relevant to a community."
She added, "Years ago we had art to hang in your home, engravers and a Polaroid camera. We currently have classic mini-Nintendos, a Super Nintendo and kilowatt meters, all of which have been popular with the community."
The staff at the OC Public Library has discussed creating such a collection since its building expansion, and it is part of the library's new strategic plan, said Maureen Cole, library director, and Aaron Novinger, technology and library promotion librarian.
"Partnering with the county's Sustainability and Solid Waste Program and the other libraries (in Clackamas County) has helped move this program forward," they said.
Cole and Novinger said offering things to check out fits the library's goal to provide free access to experiences similar to reading, watching a movie or visiting one of Oregon City's participating cultural pass venues.
"It's another way to contribute to the community's quality of life, (and) we also share SSW's sustainability efforts in limiting one-time purchases and thus reducing landfill waste," they said.
The pair pointed out that the Oregon City Library used to check out framed posters and currently offers Kill-A-Watt meters and book bundles for book clubs
Cole recently visited a public library in Utah that lends out snow saucers, and she has heard that other libraries check out board games, puzzles and reading glasses.
The West Linn Library has been checking out nonbook materials for over a decade, said Caitrin Lenartz, emerging technologies librarian.
"A lot of our items were just in response to patron need at the time, like killowatt meters, media ports, bike locks, calculators and headphones," she said.
"The seed library has been a West Linn project for a few years now and our patrons responded really well to our trial, getting excited about the free seeds and the programs that went hand in hand with them, such as winter gardening, seed-bomb making and seed harvesting," Lenartz said.
"Most of the time, when a patron learns that they can check out items other than books and DVDs, they're very excited and always want to share their ideas for expanding the practice, so we think that a Library of Things is really something that people are already thinking about," she said.
"We're very lucky to have the support and money for this project from Clackamas Sustainability and Solid Waste program; all Library of Things materials are going to come from their initial fund and be entirely separate from our print collection," Lenartz said.
"We will always be a Library of Books, but ... it's so important to really consider how we're generating waste and affecting the planet for the foreseeable future," she said.
"We're proud to offer this Library of Things for our patrons to try something new, reduce what they buy, and maybe start a tradition of community sharing."
The survey has generated 2,000 responses so far, and the librarians at Ledding and OC Library expect to get plenty more through the end of this month.
"In February there are social media campaigns throughout the library district, and the Clackamas County Quarterly, Milwaukie Pilot and Ledding Library newsletters will be reaching homes in early February," Roller said.
"We have yet to fully analyze the results (of the survey). However, we did take a look at the initial 2,000 responses for all the libraries and saw that arts and crafts and kitchenware were high-interest categories. We will further filter the results to Oregon City ZIP codes once the survey closes," Cole and Novinger said.
Storage will be an issue at both libraries, although Roller said the Ledding Library will start with the most requested and small items to be sure there is enough room on the shelves at the temporary site.
"Having toured the Library of Things collections at Hillsboro and Beaverton, we discovered that the collections are so popular that many items are always checked out. We aim to have the same success with the program from our survey results and are currently exploring display and storage options here in the library," Cole and Novinger said.
"We would love as much input as we can get, so please fill out a survey at your local library or online."
Take the survey
Fill out the Library of Things survey at bit.ly/LibraryofThingsInput by Feb. 28.
Staff at the facilities hope to have the Library of Things up and running this summer.
The Ledding Library is temporarily located at 9600 S.E. Main St., Milwaukie. Call 503-786-7546.
The Oregon City Public Library is located at 606 John Adams St. Call 503-657-8269.
The West Linn Library is located at 1595 Burns St., West Linn. Call 503-742-6178.
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