Sisters librarians are operating a pilot program called “Library of Things.” photo by Katy Yoder
By Katy Yoder
When customers visit libraries in Deschutes County, they expect to find books, DVDs and audiobooks. But since May 1, the Sisters library has some interesting new items available. The Sisters Library was chosen by the Deschutes Public Library (DPL) System to launch the pilot program, "Library of Things." Customers can check out a nature and bird-watching kit, crochet or knitting kits, or a GoPro, Instant Pot kit or even a ukulele kit.
During the six-month evaluation phase, all the kits will only be available for checkout in Sisters and must be returned there as well. "These kits are a great way for customers to try something new that they're interested in," said Zoe Schumacher, supervisor of the Sisters Library. "Customers can now explore new areas of interest and even learn new skills," she added.
It's been a two-year process for the DPL action team. Coming up with the six items took time and input from the public. "We surveyed the Sisters community two years ago and got their feedback. We narrowed down 30 to 40 suggestions to six, which are the ones available now," said Schumacher.
There are a few stipulations that differ from the usual check-out policy. Kits are checked out for seven days.
"For our usual items, customers expect a seven-day grace period. We don't have a grace period for Library of Things. There is a $20 late fee within 24 hours," said Schumacher.
Just like checking out a book, customers are responsible for returning items in the condition they received them. If there's any damage, or an item is lost, the customer is responsible for its replacement cost. Also, customers need to be 17 years old to check out an item from the Library of Things collection.
Another unique feature is there are no hold requests for Library of Things items. Customers must be in the Sisters Library to check something out. Schumacher wants to make sure customers understand that there's no guarantee an item will be there when they arrive. It's first-come-first-served.
"If you drive from outside the area, we can't guarantee that it'll be there. But you can go online to see if it's available. Although," she added, "that could change if someone comes in before you arrive."
Schumacher is a member of the action team that spearheaded Library of Things. Once it's had some time in the system, she'll be a part of reassessing and moving the project along. Being present for the day-to-day implementation of the pilot program is priceless. "Sisters is lucky to have this," she smiled. "This community has a reputation for supporting the library. We have a higher percentage of households with members that have an active library card." That kind of dedication and appreciation for learning gave Sisters the opportunity to try something new and be a part of expanding offerings through the library system.
According to DPL's technical services manager, Emily O'Neil, there are libraries around the country who have collections beyond books.
"Unlike other library collections, we really want people to know it's a try-it collection vs. an everyday use," said O'Neil. "We want people to use it as a way to decide if it's a device or item they might purchase." Value of the kits range from the $20 knitting kit to the GoPro which is valued around $250.
Library users are encouraged to utilize this new resource and let staff know what they thought of their experience. Organizers hope to have a final assessment in October.
"The action team will go through data and talk with the Sisters Library staff and decide what's next. We'll either move forward with the program or the pilot would sunset due to a lack of interest. We hope it'll be about figuring out what's next. We usually don't do just one branch; once next steps are established we'd expand district-wide to serve all our customers," said O'Neil.
O'Neil is optimistic about the prospects for the pilot program.
"I see where libraries are going in the future. We are becoming that community center for ideas and innovations for all the different ways that people learn and connect. In that way it fits perfectly with the way libraries are evolving."