30 items (that aren’t books) you can check out at Chicagoland libraries

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month and 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. 


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