No longer just for well-worn books, the nation's libraries are turning into lenders of all trades. And the Ann Arbor Public Library is one of the standouts.
"This spring, your next packet of garden seeds may come not from a hardware store or nursery, but from your local public library.
Fighting to stay relevant in the digital age, public libraries have taken to lending all manner of weird and wonderful items: hand tools, baking pans, fishing poles, telescopes and knitting needles, among others. Don't like the memoir offerings at your local branch? Bring a USB thumb drive, plug it in at one of several massive Espresso Book Machines and print a hard-cover copy of your own memoir — or any other obscure title the library doesn't keep on hand.
In Ann Arbor, Mich., the library circulates three kinds of energy meters that patrons can take home to test how much juice their appliances use. On a recent Monday, 27 of the library's 30 meters were checked out with the 28th on hold, said Celeste Choate, associate director for services, collections and access.
Later this year they plan to begin circulating science equipment — oscilloscopes, microscopes and perhaps even a few life-size models of the human skeleton — so students can shine at science fairs. "Sometimes you need tools in order to do cool science projects," Choate said. "Not everybody can afford a pH meter."