Library of Things: 2 Libraries Tell All

As summer programs wind down and school starts back up, there are so many great events to celebrate and opportunities to get your community excited about books and reading. But what about all the other great services your library offers? Community members don’t always realize the access a library card provides and how powerful owning one can be, especially those who don’t currently have one. With Library Card Sign-Up Month fast approaching, this is a prime opportunity to promote the extraordinary services you offer.

We asked two libraries to share the unique collections they have made available for their communities — items that go beyond traditional print and media collections. Read their stories and be inspired!

Elizabeth Malafi, Coordinator, Adult Services and the Miller Center, Middle Country Public Library

We created the Library of Things about a year ago because we knew there was technology and equipment our patrons wanted to use but would not be interested in buying or owning. We circulate VHS to DVD Converters, mobile wireless hotspots, wireless speakers, GoPro cameras, a 35MM slide and negative scanner, a color scanner, and more.

Patrons love the Library of Things. The most popular items in this collection are the VHS to DVD converters and the mobile wireless hotspots. We have added additional quantities of the most popular items and continue to add new items upon request. Most recently we added GoPro cameras. A list of all items can be found here.

We use KitKeeper to circulate the equipment. Patrons reserve the items for a specific date. When not in use, the items are kept in a locked closet. All items have barcodes but no security tags. Since the items are locked up and handed to the patron after checkout, we did not think security tags were necessary.

Our biggest struggle has been finding the easiest way for patrons to reserve items. At this point, we have been able to fill all customer requests.

We have been heavily promoting the Library of Things in our quarterly newsletter, social media, digital signs, and through outreach. In April we had an “Innovation Celebration,” which included hands-on demonstrations of many of the items available for loan. Word of mouth has also been helpful.

Open a World of Possibilities

Your library has so many valuable services to offer. Give your community members their own keys to the world with custom or predesigned patron ID cards and key tags.

Jolee Hamlin, Associate Director of Public Service, Capital Area District Libraries

Our Library of Things (a.k.a., the LoT) was launched in August 2016 to meet the needs of our patrons. We had an eye toward new, innovative and creative ways to reach patrons and new customers.

The LoT collection includes Ollies and Otamatones, yard games, sewing machines, GoPros, GPS units, and way more. Patron response has been fantastic; we have nearly 200 items in circulation, and they are constantly checked out!

The most popular items are the metal detector, wireless hotspots (we’ve seen 529 check-outs in 9 months), thermal leak detectors, portable telescopes, GoPros, and Speck air quality monitors (depending on the item, over 100 checkouts each over a 6 to 9 month period).

We have 13 branches and a mobile library. Currently the collections are housed at six locations throughout the system. But housed is a relative term — most of the items are checked out continually.

All items have barcodes, security tags, a laminated parts list, and instructions. They are sent through an internal delivery system. We are currently evaluating where and how to centralize the process to allow for better maintenance and a more seamless process on the items.

The biggest pain point we had when we started was packaging. At the beginning we erred on the side of protection, but by year two, we simplified the packaging with great success.

Library_of_things_collageWe use various marketing tactics to get the word out about the LoT:

  • Brochure
  • Homepage banners
  • Branch signage
  • Media ads
  • Video
  • Media interviews
  • Email blasts
  • Social media posts
  • Google AdWords
  • Expos

My advice to other libraries wanting to start a Library of Things is to start small. The first-year budget for the LoT was $5,000, but the second-year budget was $25,000, so growth has been constant. Visit other libraries who have LoT collections, ask questions and note their best practices.

Are you thinking about adding a unique collection to your library? Or maybe you already have. We’d love to hear about it — share your own noteworthy services and collections with your peers on our Twitter page, and check out the resources curated on our Library of Things Pinterest Board.


Liz Bowie

Liz Bowie

Marketing Content Manager at Demco, Inc.
Liz is the Marketing Content Manager for Demco. Her background includes editorial management and product development of innovative and time-saving tools for schools and libraries, with an emphasis on Common Core, literacy and math. The products she and her team have developed, including classroom games, learning centers and professional development resources, have garnered 46 industry awards for excellence in education. Liz is passionate about promoting literacy through her work and the work of others. If you are interested in sharing your ideas and programming tips on Demco’s Ideas and Inspiration blog or have ideas for topics you’d like to see covered, contact Liz at