Family Finance: Beyond Books

Jennifer Wray

I'd like to think that in another life, I'd be a librarian. There's something profoundly pleasing about being surrounded by books and periodicals, and I love the role that libraries have as community hubs. Over the years, my infatuation has grown, as I've used local branches to borrow DVDs and CDs, gain access to such publications as The Columbus Dispatch and Consumer Reports, and even borrow ebooks for my travels.

Still, as I dug deeper into library-land, I was surprised by the many resources available to patrons, from techie tools such as Roku devices to seeds to grow your own plants. Intrigued, I reached out to Central Ohio library representatives via email to learn more. Here's a sampling of what some offer beyond the traditional bound volumes.

Worthington Libraries

Worthington Libraries can expand your horizons withAdventure Kits, whose themes include road trip, bird watching, camping, nature walks, playing the ukulele, learning to sew and stargazing. If you travel, borrow aGoChip Beam, which can broadcast TV shows or movies to multiple devices, or keep children occupied withLaunchpads (kid-friendly, app-loaded tablets).

Is mold or pollen a concern? Check out anair quality monitor. The library also has anautomobile diagnostics code reader, aportable car jump-starter and a tool to measurehome energy usage. Need to relax? How about alight therapy lamp?

If you're sticking around the library, you can borrowlaptops,a computer mouse, acharger for your smartphone or tablet,headphones and even arolling walker to help navigate. Patrons also can take advantage of freefaxing,scanning andnotary services. Cardholders soon will be able to borrow white noise machines, magic kits and weighted lap blankets.

Worthington even hasbaskets to haul your goodies home.

Fun is one of our core values at Worthington Libraries, and many of the nontraditional items we offer for patrons to borrow, like camping tents, ukuleles and telescopes, are designed around fun activities that families can do together. These items also support hands-on learning and invite people to see the library as an educational resource that goes beyond books,” deputy directorMonica Baughman says.

Westerville Public Library

Do you aspire to become a podcaster? Check out the new recording studio at the Westerville Public Library's Innovation Lab. The library also enables patrons to “borrow the internet” with a Wi-Fi hotspot.

On the other end of the tech spectrum is theseed library, from which cardholders can get packets to grow annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables. If your walls are looking bare, the library has you covered withready-to-hang artwork.

Want to make music? Westerville hasguitars available to patrons age 18 and older. Meanwhile,offerings for its youngest patrons include adaptive toy and book kits, early literacy kits and science kits. Other available items includeelectricity usage monitors,a portable projector,preloaded tablets andvideo players for kids, and evenbike locks.

“There's this moment of happy surprise when a customer discovers these items. They're excited to experiment without having to buy. Since we started offering the hotspots and guitars, they're almost never on the shelves. The minute they're returned, they go back out to the next person waiting in line,” says marketing manager Tamara Murray.

Bexley Public Library

Stargazers and birders, take note: The Bexley Public Library has resources for you.Two telescopes allow patrons to learn more about our solar system and astronomical events, andbirding kits include binoculars, field guides, activity sheets and more.

That's not all: Cardholders also can borrowboard games,acoustic guitars and ukuleles,Roku streaming devices andWi-Fi hotspots.

“Central to the library's mission is providing access, not just to information, but to the arts, technology and experiences. These ‘nontraditional' library resources help open up new worlds and inspire learning for people of all ages,” writes library director Ben Heckman.

Columbus Metropolitan Library

Columbus Metropolitan Library—the largest system in Central Ohio, with 23 locations—offers a unique means to explore community institutions through its loaned pass program. Cardholders can check out two-day membership passes to theWexner Center for the Arts and Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens from select branches. In late May, the library was set to start piloting a pass program to the Ohio History Connection.

“Columbus Metropolitan Library's purpose is to inspire reading, share resources and connect people. These passes, which we lend out just as we would a book, offer our customers the chance to get free access to what would otherwise cost money. That's the goal of public libraries—to ensure equal access to all,” says spokesman Ben Zenitsky.

Jennifer Wray is a freelance writer, mother and fan of all things pop culture.

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