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Sat, Jan. 18

Witucki: Beyond books: Libraries find other ways to serve

During the past few days, we may have been given a glimpse into the future of libraries.

On New Year’s Day, reporter Cindy Barks wrote a story about the Prescott Public Library and the “Library of Things” concept. A library of things describes collections of things other than books that are being loaned out like books.

According to the Wikipedia entry, a library of things “can loan out kitchen appliances, tools, gardening equipment and seeds, electronics, toys and games, art, science kits, craft supplies, musical instruments, recreational equipment, and more.” According to the story, the Prescott Public Library is currently loaning out backpacks filled with hiking essentials. That’s a great resource for anyone living near Prescott.

I like the library of things idea a lot in theory. It makes the library an even more important community resource. And in a roundabout way, it could even help the economy. Sometimes I have decided against buying something because I wasn’t sure if it would work the way I wanted it to. Renting that item for a few days would help me make a better decision about that product.

The big problem I see is, of course, people. While I’m sure most of us wouldn’t intentionally damage library property, it’s easy to imagine renting out a toy for your child and then having to return the toy in tiny pieces. Or returning a guitar with a broken string. While the offending patrons would likely be the ones to pay for lost or damaged merchandise, the loss and damage itself is going to create some issues. I’m sure the library would rather have good merchandise to lend out. Most of us are used to the issues with older library books. Would we be just as willing to put up with slightly damaged electronics or recreational equipment?

I also have to ask about storage. I’m sure not every library has the space to store a lot of extra items for rental. Perhaps the solution is to have each library focus on one particular item, the way Prescott is currently focusing on the backpacks. Sometimes a library will direct you to a different library for a particular book. They could do the same with other items. “We don’t have that particular ‘Star Wars’ toy here, but if you go to Prescott Valley…”

And on Jan. 10, reporter Doug Cook reminded us about the food pantry at the Prescott Valley Public Library. Food can be a more serious need for many area residents who are down on their luck. It seems clear that libraries are looking beyond books to find ways to help the community at large.

It’s good to know that a library could help us out in a pinch if we needed to borrow something — or if we were in a more dire need.

Steve Witucki is community editor for The Daily Courier of the Prescott News Network. Email him at switucki@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1104.

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