If you’ve ever wanted to play a ukulele or test out the benefits of a light therapy lamp but aren’t ready to fully commit with a purchase, the East Lansing Public Library (ELPL) has a way to help.
As part of its collection, the ELPL provides community members with a variety of nontraditional items for check out – far more than just books on shelves. This is something many libraries call their “library of things” collection, which includes tools, musical instruments, book kits, light therapy lamps, chromebooks, local area attraction passes and more.
New collections and technical services librarian says these items help the ELPL serve the community.
Chrissie Evaskis-Garrett, ELPL collections and technical services librarian, has been with the library for about a month. In her role, she witnesses many unconventional items being checked out by patrons on a regular basis. She said offering these other checkout items is an important way the library can help serve the community.
“We serve our communities by providing services and things they might not be able to get elsewhere or are prohibitively expensive,” Evaskis-Garrett said. “As a community service, we meet our patrons and our public where they want us to be.”
Many families enjoy a daytime outing to the local zoo but can’t always afford it in their budget. Thanks to the library, they don’t have to scrimp and save for a fun staycation activity.
“We offer a Potter Park Zoo pass. That’s one of our kits we provide. It includes free parking, and you can go in and see the animals, hang out in the lizard house and see the penguins,” Evaskis-Garrett said. “The Potter Park Zoo pass is the ninth most popular item checked out this year, across the entire library.”
For those hoping to get some house renovations done or feng shui of interior space in the new year, patrons can check out tool kits for such projects.
“We maintain a tool library. Patrons can come and check out tools. They can search our catalog, typing in ‘tool library,’ to see kits we offer,” Evaskis-Garrett said. “We do have you sign a waiver and the kits check out for seven days. Some of the things in there are drills, stud finder, circular saws, laser level and things like that. If you are in the house on a cold day and want to do a home improvement project, we can help you out with that.”
The library’s second-most checked out item in 2023 was the Chromebook kit, according to Evaskis-Garrett. These come in handy for remote workers or students, and include a Chromebook, a T-Mobile hotspot and two power cords.
If learning a new instrument is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, ELPL has a way for you to make music.
“We have ukuleles to check out as well,” Evaskis-Garrett said. “We have an event happening in January where patrons can come in and learn how to play the ukulele. Our ukuleles are in storage, but we encourage anybody if you’re looking for a kit that you don’t see on the shelf, come to the circulation desk. We will be happy to connect anybody who comes in with the kit they’re looking for.”
Many Michiganders deal with seasonal depression and the negative impacts of lack of sunlight in the deep, dark depths of winter. The library has a tool to help combat SAD (seasonal affective disorder), with its Verilux HappyLight Luxe LED Light Therapy Lamps.
“This is the second year in the winter we’ve provided access to those,” Evaskis-Garrett said. “With things like seasonal depression and vitamin D deficiencies, the winter blues are definitely a real thing. It’s a scientific reaction to reduced daylight. The difference in daylight that we see in the winter versus the summer is massive. It also throws off people’s circadian rhythm. If we can find some way to make their winter experience a little easier, we want to provide that.”
Moving into the spring, when the April showers bring May flowers, the library has a gardening kit for patrons to check out. There are also birding kits to help patrons identify different migratory birds throughout the seasons.
Younger kids and readers can also take advantage of specific themed kits that encourage both education and entertainment.
“We also have storytime kits as well,” Evaskis-Garrett said. “Those include books, musical instruments like egg shakers, little tambourines, an educational toy and a parent guide so parents can help their children. There are interactive activities with that as well.”
The kit offerings can be accessed on the ELPL main site.
Although the library hopes to build a dedicated webpage for its collection of things, for now, Evaskis-Garrett said, patrons can still search for their desired items on the ELPL main site.
“On the left side of the website, there’s different filters that you can use. One of those is kits, in the other section. If you type in something like tools and you’re looking for our tool kits, you can filter by objects, check the ‘kits’ box and it will filter down. It will show you everything we have available or checked out,” Evaskis-Garrett said.
As the cost of living keeps increasing, there are fewer free items these days. But the library is one place where you’re not expected to pay or leave a tip. This makes for a unique atmosphere, Evaskis-Garrett said.
“Libraries should be one of the centers of the community,” she said. “Libraries are one of the places you can go where you’re not asked to purchase or do something. You’re just asked to be. With providing these kits, we provide different ways to entertain, support and try. One of the biggest things about being a library is that we educate and inform.”
The library offers a wide variety of free programming throughout the year also. Programs include Read to a Dog, in partnership with Buddy’s PALs on Wednesday from 5 to 6 p.m. for kids and teens, Super Smash Bros. tournaments on Fridays, Maker Mondays, a youth chess club and more.
“There’s always a whole lot more going on at your local library, other than just books,” Evaskis-Garrett said. “Almost always there’s a program, an activity or just a general place to be. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t highlight the wonderful support we get from Our Friends of the East Lansing Public Library as well.”