There’s lots more that a library card will get you than books, story times and movies.
The list of items that can be checked out from libraries in and around Chicago ranges from cake pans to musical instruments to a human skull.
“So many children are limited and for them to not to have the opportunity to be exposed to the arts because it’s cost prohibitive would be sad,” says Mary Clare Sabio, the librarian and coordinator of the extensive Beyond Books collection at Oak Lawn Public Library. “Sometimes it’s hard to expose your kids to all the possible things they would be good at. That’s what our collection is about.”
At most libraries in both the suburbs and the Chicago Public Library system, hot spots and cable converters for laptops and home entertainment are ubiquitous. Families can also check out “passports” that provide free tickets to local museums, parks and zoos, which are a huge money saver.
Sabio has a budget to find new items each year and takes suggestions from the public for something new. At the holidays, converters to change movies or photos to a digital format have become popular to be checked out.
In addition to amassing a collection of non-book items, libraries must house and catalog their acquisitions. Sabio says when she purchases an instrument, for instance, she also learns how to maintain and store it properly.
Alsip-Merrionette Park Public Library District has kits in its collection that include tools and Bloomindale Public Library lends out a field trip pack kit with a backpack that includes binoculars and observation containers along with identification cards for kids to learn about nature.
Sabio says that items from the Beyond Books collection are like those in the rest of the library system in that they can be checked out by Oak Lawn patrons and holders of reciprocal cards in Chicago and the suburbs for three weeks. However, they don’t often make their way through an interlibrary loan, so patrons have to come to the origin library to pickup and renew.
Here are some of our favorite items that can be checked out from local libraries. Visit yours for a rundown of equipment and non-book items around you.
- 3D Printer (Indian Prairie)
- Accordion (Oak Lawn)
- Beach Umbrella & Beach Chairs (Oak Lawn)
- Bike Lock (Glen Ellyn)
- Blood Pressure Monitor (Oak Lawn)
- Bocce Ball Set (Oak Lawn)
- Bubble Machine (La Grange Park)
- Cake Decorating Tips (Berkeley)
- Cake Pans (Oak Lawn, Batavia, Blue Island)
- Cassette to MP3 converter kit (West Chicago)
- Cold Brew Coffee Maker (La Grange Park)
- Collapsible Corn Hole game (Oak Lawn)
- Digital Camera (Berkeley)
- Drawing & Tracing Lightbox (Indian Prairie)
- Fishing Pole (Oak Lawn, Chicago Public Library, Alsip-Merrionette Park, Crestwood)
- GoPro Camera (Downers Grove)
- Human Skull & Skeleton (Oak Lawn)
- Instant Camera with charger (Oak Lawn)
- Instant Pot with recipe book (La Grange Park)
- Folding Wagon (Oak Lawn)
- Knitting Needles (Oak Lawn)
- Musical instruments: Ukulele, Drum Kit, Violin, etc. (Oak Lawn, Blue Island)
- Puzzles (Homewood, Itasca, Alsip-Merrionette Park)
- Record Player to MP3 converter kit (St. Charles)
- Selfie Stick (Oak Lawn)
- Sewing Machine (Alsip-Merrionette Park, Oak Lawn, West Chicago, Glen Ellyn)
- Sheet Music (Alsip-Merrionette Park)
- Telescope (Oak Lawn, Indian Prairie, Chicago Public Library)
- Tote Bags (Forest Park)
- Virtual Reality Headset (Downers Grove)
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