A Library of Things: public libraries provide access to sewing machines, cooking pans and more

As the role of libraries in our communities evolves, many are investing in items for checkout that meet a local need – surveying patrons and gauging interest beyond books or DVDs. These libraries of things include unique local collections such as cake pans, musical instruments and sewing machines. “Our libraries are fulfilling local needs, enabling library card holders to try things out without a financial commitment. Libraries change based on the needs of those we serve,” said State Librarian Julie Walker.

When Makayla Sauls, 15, moved to a new school last fall, she struggled with how to fit in and make new friends. She found unexpected help through her local library, where she was able to check out a ukulele and instructional material.

a lady is posing with ukulele“I love how happy the ukulele is; you can’t frown while playing it! The sound matches the tone of the songs I write,” said Makayla. “I like the songs even better when played with ukulele.”

Playing the ukulele has given her confidence, as she made new friends through playing the instrument in her school band and teaching fellow students how to play.

Makayla practices the instrument daily, sometimes for up to four hours. She plays lullabies for her little sisters and in weekend school public performances. She also volunteers at the Moultrie-Colquitt Library and hopes to get involved in ukulele programming there.

“People are excited about having ukuleles available to try out and attend library activities around them,” said Erin Honeycutt, children’s librarian at the Moultrie-Colquitt Library System. “It feels great to bring this experience to our community.”

Honeycutt began the ukulele programming earlier in 2019 thanks to a grant from the Georgia Music Foundation, which enabled the library to purchase 20 Kala Makala soprano ukuleles, instructional books and DVDs, and tuners to make kits available for checkout.

In addition to the kits, the library hosts jam sessions and ukulele workshops for all ages to teach the basics – how to hold the uke, strum, and play basic chords. Honeycutt also conducts group classes in the community at schools and daycare centers.

“We provide a way to reach those who can’t afford to purchase an instrument on their own, or for people to try one out before buying,” said Honeycutt. “If you can borrow a book from a library to learn a skill, why not a ukulele? We are meeting the needs of the people we serve.”

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The Chestatee Regional Library System has found its own local niche by offering cake pans for checkout.

“Patrons love the idea of saving money by using our specialized cake pans,” said Director Leslie Clark. “Maybe one year, a daughter wants a Barbie birthday cake and then the next year, she is into Scooby Doo. We can help!”

The library has a catalog in each branch with pictures of the cake pans, so patrons can browse the selection.

Other “library of things” items offered there include tents, binoculars, telescopes, car diagnostic code readers, Raspberry Pi, Launchpads, Code-a-pillar, Get Outdoors! backpacks with learning activities, flash cards and LeapFrog reading kits.

“Many of our patrons will check out the Georgia State Park Library pass and add a backpack, tent or binoculars – or all of them if they are available – for a fun free time in our state parks. It is a win-win for everyone,” said Clark.

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Sequoyah Regional Library System offers 12 sewing machines for patrons, and on any given day, most are checked out.

Library staff have heard from patrons who have used the machines to tailor clothes for a job interview, tried a machine before investing in purchasing one, or used one as an excuse to spend time with a family member.

“Some people are unable to afford a machine of their own,” said Kara Rumble, public services specialist with Sequoyah. “I love that the library can provide an opportunity for patrons that may otherwise not be possible.”

A young lady models clothes created using a sewing machine borrowed from her local library.

A young lady models clothes created using a sewing machine borrowed from her local library.

The library hosts free sewing workshops that have become a way for people to get to know others and build community, and in April they even hosted a fashion show featuring patrons who designed clothes using the machines. “One of the fashion show participants is an aspiring designer who hopes to attend SCAD for fashion design,” said Rumple. “While she saves to buy her own sewing machine, she has used ours to bring her designs to life.”

“Some people are unable to afford a sewing machine of their own. I love that the library can provide an opportunity for patrons that may otherwise not be possible.”

– Kara Rumble, Sequoyah Regional Library