Bake a cake, catch a fish, see the stars - all thanks to your local library

Last week, I heard Eli Neiburger, Associate Director of IT and Production for the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL), deliver a presentation titled “Access, Schmaccess: Libraries in the Age of Information Ubiquity”. His talk focused on the ways in which widespread access to ebooks is going to change the roles of libraries. One of the things he suggested is that libraries are really good at checking things out (we have the infrastructure in place) and that we should continue to think about interesting things libraries could circulate. Check out the AADL’s list of “unusual stuff to borrow”, which includes many things from telescopes to museum passes to musical instruments.

What other “stuff” are libraries checking out? Circulating cake pan collections in libraries in Kansas have recently made the news here.  The article suggests that cake pan collections may be more popular in rural locations, which made me consider the ways in which the local community’s culture and needs will influence the things that it would make the most sense to circulate. Partnerships and collaboration also seem to be important factors for success.

My 2 ½ year old son went fishing for the first time this summer (he caught two weeds and was very excited!) thanks to the Grand Rapids, Minnesota library. They loan fishing poles! I asked Marcia Anderson, the library’s director, for more information about the collection and she generously shared an overview of the project.

“Minnesota has many hunters and anglers, but the number is declining as fewer young people are taking up outdoor recreation.  The Department of Natural Resources is trying to counteract that trend by making fishing and hunting easier, and doing as much promotion as they can.  They partnered with the City of Grand Rapids to install a fishing pier on the Mississippi River right next to the Library.  It provides a great spot to fish on this stretch of the river, and draws people to our little section of town.

The local fisheries manager of the DNR approached us about applying for a grant to purchase fishing equipment to lend to people to promote fishing. We jumped on the opportunity to provide another service to people in the community, and promote the Library as a place to experience.  We partnered with a local Rotary Club, whose members assisted with purchase of the equipment and assembling packages of tackle.  They also volunteered to keep the equipment in working order!

We have had about 50 checkouts this summer already. The equipment has been used regularly by: teens who come down to the river to fish, families needing an extra pole or life vest for visitors, visitors to town who want to try a spot of fishing on the Mississippi or on one of the lakes in town.

With 1000 Lakes in Itasca County, and 5 in the community (all of them with fish) lending the equipment is a natural extension of making the Library a centerpiece of the community.  Many people fish, and it's great to make it easier for people who want to try it!”

The Grand Rapids Library also lends Kill a Watt electricity meters for measuring electricity consumption.  They were donated by several of the power companies in their region.  They also lend bike locks for use while people are in the library. 

While he didn’t really learn to fish that day, my son did receive a lesson in sharing as we returned the prized fishing pole to the circulation desk. Libraries facilitate sharing in their communities. It’s a role I am excited to see continue and evolve.


What a great list! I remember seeing cake pans in rural Nebraska libraries, but I've never heard of fishing poles in Minnesota. In my neck of the woods, we have an entire branch devoted to tool lending.

I was happy to see AADL's Unusual Stuff to Borrow page. Many libraries could steal that idea, both as a marketing tool and also to jumpstart new collections tailor made for their communities. And what a collection at AADL! My smile broadened as I scrolled through it. Great post.

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