Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Ray Routhier email@example.com
So here’s the dilemma: You’ve been asked to bake a cake shaped like a dinosaur for a child’s birthday, but you’re hesitant to spend money on a pan you’ll use only once.
What to do?
If you live in New Gloucester, the answer is easy. Go to the New Gloucester Public Library and simply check the pan out, just like you would a book or DVD. And while you’re there, peruse the other 46 specialty cake pans the library has in its collection, including Dora the Explorer and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
The New Gloucester library's cake pan collection.
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
Yes, New Gloucester’s library has a cake pan collection. In fact, Maine has at least 10 public libraries expanding the idea of what a library can loan to card holders – art prints, American Girl dolls, volleyball and croquet sets, ukuleles, fishing poles, telescopes, sheet music, binoculars, backpacks, energy auditing tools and GPS equipment.
Many have added the non-literary items in the past several years, sometimes at the suggestion of patrons. Librarians say libraries have a long history of offering new services and items as times and community needs change, including audio equipment, computers and e-readers. They say adding recreational gear, musical instruments or expensive toys to their collections provides free ways for community members to enrich their lives and expand their minds.
At the Patten Free Library in Bath, little girls are now able to expand their minds with the help of American Girl dolls. The library has an American Girl book club, and since the fall the library has also been loaning out dolls, which retail for $110 and may be financially out of reach for lots of families.
“We were thrilled that they had the dolls, because it helps get you excited about the books,” said Audrey Rolio of Woolwich, one of the towns Patten Free Library serves. Rolio’s 7-year-old daughter Celia took out the Victorian-era Samantha doll earlier this month. “It really encouraged imaginative play. She made Samantha an old-fashioned wicker lunch basket, and she wrote in (Samantha’s) journal in cursive, because she imagined Samantha would write in cursive.”
But libraries aren’t just trying to expand people’s minds. Librarians say a library’s role today includes helping people lead better lives in a variety of ways.
Portland Public Library associate director Sarah Campbell holds one of the library's four ukeleles.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
“We have books about how to live a healthy life, but we can also loan items that help people to live a healthier life,” said Jeff Cabral, director of the McArthur Public Library in Biddeford. “We often try to add new things to bring in new users, who might not be aware of the range of services we offer.”
The McArthur library is assembling a collection of recreational gear that will likely include a volleyball set, a croquet set, bocce balls, fishing poles and snowshoes. Most of the collection has been assembled and should begin circulating in January, Cabral said.
Adding new circulating items is not a response to a decrease in the use of Maine libraries. In fact, overall circulation numbers have increased at least a few percentage points in the past few years, said Nissa Flanagan, president of the Maine Library Association. The total circulation for Maine’s 260-plus libraries in 2011, the most recent year for which they were available, was 9,928,677 items. In 2010 that number was 9,679,063. Both numbers include books, DVDs and all items the libraries loan.
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