As a kid, one of my favorite places to hang out was the library. Not only was it a place of peace and quiet (the opposite of my home), but I could also borrow books by the boatload. As I got older, you could find me browsing the encyclopedias and microform collections while researching school projects. Basically, the library had everything my nerdy little mind could ever dream of. But never in a million years did I ever think libraries would become a place where I could borrow everything from cake pans to skateboards.
I tapped my hivemind of moms located all over the U.S. and am sharing cool stuff that libraries are lending for free, starting with the library system I grew up frequenting (and still do). And this is just the beginning of what’s available outside of their enormous book collections and weekly classes and clubs.
So, the next time you visit your local library, ask them about their lending library programs — you just may be pleasantly surprised at what they’ve got!
The Los Angeles County Library system has a tool lending program that allows cardholders to borrow various tools and maker equipment, including drills and powerwashers, sewing machines, and crafting supplies like hot glue guns. Cardholders must be over 18 to use the program and can check out between two and six items at a time.
While you don’t actually borrow the seeds, many libraries have seed libraries that pass out free seeds so that community members can start their own gardens in their yards or on their balconies, patios, and rooftops. Start a beautiful flower garden or feed yourself and your friends with edible plants and herbs.
When former Sacramento librarian Shari Nichelini retired, she requested that retirement gifts be in the form of cake pans. This was in an effort to realize her dream of creating what is now known as the Shari Nichelini Cake Pan Library and adding to the system’s Library of Things. Today, the collection includes dozens of unique cake pans. And since the program accepts donations, it only continues to grow.
Throwing a party soon? The Library of Things at the Hillsboro Public Library includes a whole collection dedicated to events and parties. Cardholders can borrow everything from a bubble machine and a towering chocolate fountain to karaoke and bubble machines.
Outdoor and Sports Gear
Outdoor enthusiasts will love the Princeton Public Library’s collection of adventure gear. Both adult and youth explorer backpack kits are available for checkout. Backpacks are filled with everything you could need for a day of exploration, including binoculars, a compass, a first-aid kit, and maps. In addition, cardholders can borrow an emergency weather radio and portable power station. Want to stargaze while you’re out in mother nature? Check out a telescope to take along, and let the adventures begin! Sports more your speed? See if your local library is one of many that offers skateboards and more.
Tech and Gaming Equipment
The Howland Public Library in Beacon, New York, is a techy dream. The system’s library of things includes mobile WiFi Hotspots, selfie sticks and tripods, laptops, tablets, and streaming TV devices. And that’s just part of their extensive collection of things you can borrow, which even includes Nintendo Switch kits.
Experience Passes (Museums & More!)
Many libraries offer free passes to local museums, zoos, botanical gardens, and national forests. The Papillion Public Library’s collection of adventure passes includes a bike-sharing program complete with electric bikes decked out with speedometers and baskets that hold up to 20 pounds of cargo.
Imagine borrowing a robot from a library; actually, you can! The Fayetteville Free Library has a bunch of cool STEM stuff that cardholders can check out; think real robots, a caterpillar that kids can code, and invention kits. And if 3D printing is something your kid is into but your budget isn’t, the West Hartford Public Library offers a Teen 3D Printing Club where teens can tinker with their Original Prusa i3 MK3S printer.
Learning a musical instrument can be a fun and fulfilling experience. But before investing in an instrument of your own, consider checking with your local library to see if they have borrowing options. The Yorba Linda Public Library is just one of many branches that offer a variety of musical instruments. Their collection includes acoustic and electric guitars, ukuleles, and keyboards. Some branches even have state-of-the-art production studios for those interested in recording their own music.