Good Neighbors

Libraries Let You Check Out More Than Books

From specialty cake pans to tools, they're filling demand for things better shared than bought


When my son was little, he wanted a specialty cake for his birthday. I debated buying the fancy pan to make it, and in the end I gave in and bought it. I haven't used it since.

If the Whitehall Public Library (PA) had its cake pan lending library back then I might have avoided the expense, and saved the space in my cabinet where that special pan still sits in its box. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the library opened their cake pan library about eight years ago after the director read about a similar concept at another library. They have 60+ pans, from popular children's movie characters to pans for baby showers and holidays.

From cake pans to fishing poles and harps (!) many libraries lend more than just books

Whitehall isn't the only Pittsburgh area library with specialty lending collections. We did a story (click here to read) on how the Millvale Public Library lends tools. The PG says the Green Tree Public Library just opened a kitchen tool lending library which has everything from a Belgian waffle maker to a Cuisinart hand blender. The Penn Hills Library has fishing rods and tackle boxes, Braddock Library will lend you wall art, you can borrow guitars at Bethel Park Library. Whitehall also circulates American Doll kits.

"Try it, don't buy it" for something you might only need once (like fishing gear) is a more sustainable model, says one librarian

It's a trend that's popping up all over the country. We found a library in Concord, Massachusetts that lends seeds, specializing in hierloom tomato varieties (not sure how you return those!). One in New Glouchester Maine lends a lot of the items the other libraries stock, but also specializes in telescopes you can borrow. The Lancaster (PA) Public Library has taken specialty lending to the extreme, lending not only American Girl dolls and cake pans, but ukeleles, outdoor and board games, and even harps!

The Green Tree library director Adaena Tray tells the PG she likes the idea of lending libraries for specialty items not only because patrons love it, but because it "encourages sustainability" when people don't buy something they'll only use once.

Check with your library to see if they have any specialty items you'd like to borrow, and if not, why not help them start a lending library!

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