Going to the public library doesn’t mean just checking out a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” anymore.
It’s where you can go to check out an oat-rolling machine or a post hole digger or a lawn mower—for nothing more than flashing your library card.
Since 2015, the Sacramento Public Library has offered the Library of Things, a collection of hundreds of items, including yard tools, sewing machines, telescopes, GoPros and guitars.
Because it’s an idea that proved popular, two more library branches will house items to borrow beginning this February. In addition to the Arcade Library and Fair Oaks Library, the Library of Things will expand to branches in Walnut Grove and Valley Hi-North Laguna. Physical space mainly determines where the unique library can expand, but patrons anywhere in the county can check out items.
“Anything that gets our patrons through the door is a success for us,” says Matt Hill, library systems supervisor for the library, showing off the brightly colored electric lawnmowers stored at the Arcade branch. They’re just waiting for weekend gardeners, along with battery-operated hedge trimmers and other garden tools, some of the most popular checkouts.
An online and paper survey last summer of about 1,500 library patrons found they wanted yard games in Sacramento County’s southern neighborhoods. In the Delta region, water pumps were in demand. Patrons also asked for document shredders and enchroma glasses that correct color blindness. The call for KitchenAid stand mixers didn’t go unheeded: They will be available soon, Hill says.
Although anyone older than 18 can check things out, the Library of Things has benefited people who cannot afford to invest in expensive equipment, Hill says. Immigrant women have used the sewing machines to make items to sell or clothe their families. One family took a guitar to a father in a nursing home so he could once again play his favorite songs.
Hill says patrons are often surprised at the inventory, but it’s part of the library’s evolution as a community resource. And this is no longer your mom’s library: Shelved books, DVDs and other materials, such as Library of Things items, account for a little more than half of checkouts. Digital offerings such as e-books make up the rest.
BRANCHES WITH LIBRARY OF THINGS
2443 Marconi Ave.
11601 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks
14177 Market St., Walnut Grove
Valley Hi-North Laguna
7400 Imagination Parkway