Beyond books: 'Library of Things' introduced in Lake Oswego
Soon, in eight libraries across Clackamas County including Lake Oswego, Wilsonville and West Linn, "checking out" will no longer be a process reserved for books, CDs and other media.
Supplemented by the county's Sustainability and Solid Waste program, these libraries are each jump-starting a "Library of Things." And through the program, they will provide people access to items that may be too expensive or impractical to purchase.
Here's what the Lake Oswego Public Library, Wilsonville Public Library and the West Linn Public Library are planning for their new programs.
The City of Lake Oswego received a $2,000 grant from Clackamas County.
"We are launching the collection with 25 unique items, but plan to add up to 100 unique items to complete the collection over the next 12 months, including things for children such as train sets and snap circuits," said Melissa Kelly, director of the Lake Oswego Library. "Staff are excited to provide access to a new collection of materials that inspire life-long learning, encourage human connection, and level the playing field for people without the budget or space to own the technology or equipment themselves."
The collection includes games, a food dehydrator, juicer and sewing machine. Probably the most unique item is a theremini, a reimagination of the theremin, one of the oldest electronic musical instruments.
When asked about storage space for the items, Kelly said it wouldn't be needed.
"From what we've learned from other libraries items are constantly checked out, so you don't need storage space," she said. Though library patrons only need a library card to borrow from the Library of Things, the process is slightly different from checking out a book or DVD.
"The items need to be in protective packaging," she said. "And if the item needs a disc or a special battery we want to include it or let borrowers know they will need one." Manuals will also be included in the checkout package.
She said library volunteers will check the items on a regular basis to ensure they are working properly and that all items are included for the next borrower.
"We've even had someone volunteer to tune the musical instruments," she said.
The Lake Oswego library will hold a preview week Sept. 16 through 22, with a number of events planned to show patrons how to use certain items in the Library of Things. Items may be checked out starting Sept. 23, for a period of one week.
The Lake Oswego library is located at 706 Fourth St.
The City of Wilsonville received $1,500 from Clackamas County and then used about the same amount of its own money to open its Library of Things.
The program, which will open Sept. 16 at the Wilsonville Library, includes about 35 items.
According to Wilsonville Public Library administrative assistant Brad Clark, the City selected items based on the results of a survey conducted by Clackamas County that asked people what items they wanted.
Some of the more expensive items offered include a metal detector, a VHS-to-DVD converter, a thermal camera provided by Flir Systems and a Kitchen-Aid mixer.
"As a consumer I'm not going to spend $80-$100 on a metal detector. But when I think about the hundreds of people who are going to use it, that's a tiny cost. That seems like a small cost to be able to give people that experience," Clark said.
It also will offer games like Settlers of Catan and Risk, outdoor equipment for backpacking and birdwatching, fitness equipment, party lights, a sewing machine, discs for disc golf, LCD projectors, retro video game consoles and more.
"There's all kinds of opportunities for people to try something new and learn something new," he said.
Clark said the feature will allow people to try new things without paying exorbitant costs to do so. He outlined disc golf as one example: "That way you don't have to pay $30 or $40 (for equipment) to go play and then find out you don't like it," he said. "Or you find out, 'I love this. I'm going to go buy really expensive fancy ones because I'm way into this.'"
Clark said the library avoided items that could create liability issues, like power tools. And he said the library wasn't particularly worried about items being damaged frequently, but that the library would fine people if warranted.
"If there was purposeful destruction or neglect, something really out of the ordinary, we reserve the right to bill if we need to. But for the most part, we expect there to be wear and tear, and it is never our intention to try to create roadblocks for people to use the library," he said.
A couple of challenges associated with the endeavor, Clark said, include people not being used to the idea of checking out items outside of books from the library, and also that people might not be able to browse the selection based on the fact that most items are regularly checked out at existing Library of Things in Hillsboro and Beaverton. However, people can access the items via an online catalogue. Also, people will not be able to check out items at one library and then drop them off at another, as they can with books.
Clark said the money the City initially allocated for the project came from the 2018-19 fiscal year and that the City may use more money this fiscal year to buy more items for the collection. For his part, Clark would like to see the City purchase a telescope and a pasta maker in the not-too-distant future.
Two days before the library starts the service, Sept. 14, the Wilsonville Library will host a "test lab," where people can view and touch available items.
Based on the success of the Library of Things in Hillsboro and Beaverton, Clark is optimistic that Wilsonville's version will be successful.
"There's that potential that it's not a thing people are interested in it and we have a small collection (and we say) 'We've tried it' and then maybe we move on to something else," he said. "I think we've seen from other libraries that have been doing this for quite awhile the popularity of it, and so as much as we can share with the public and get that excitement going, it's a self-perpetuating kind of thing."
The Wilsonville library is located at 8200 S.W. Wilsonville Road.
The West Linn Library also is gearing up to unveil its Library of Things.
The library received $1,500 from the Clackamas County program and contributed $1,000 of its own budget toward jump-starting the initiatives.
One interesting tidbit Caitrin Lenartz, the library's emerging technology librarian, and other West Linn librarians gleaned from the Clackamas County survey was that many West Linn residents who filled it out wanted items related to events and parties. In turn, the library bought a karaoke machine, a bocce ball set, an Instant Pot and an air fryer for the Library of Things.
"We are now the party library," Lenartz said.
Other items include an vinyl record-to-digital converter, a portable DVD player, a sewing machine, knitting and crochet equipment, a green screen for filming and a birdwatching kit.
At the West Linn location, library-goers will not be able to physically browse items. They can instead view the items via an online catalog or sift through a binder that provides a picture and description of the items and is accessible at the library.
"It might be (a challenge) for some, but all of our catalog for books is online, so people, I think, are used to looking things up online," Lenartz said.
The City will host an introductory event for the program all day Sept. 16. There, attendees can view a slideshow that shows the items and sift through the binder. The Library of Things will officially open Sept. 23 and Lenartz said the library is planning to eventually conduct a survey to see how things are going.
"We're really hoping people will come try it out, try something new. One of our goals is to let people explore a little bit. We're hoping people will like it and turn up on the 23rd," Lenartz said.
The West Linn library is located at 1595 Burns St.
Reporter Barb Randall contributed to this story.
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