The County Voice

Napa County’s “Library of Things” Meeting Residents’ Needs

There was a time that when you thought of libraries and what they offered you would think “Books!” — or maybe story time if you had little ones at home. Some libraries had 8mm films and records available to borrow. Then along came the VCR and libraries started offering videos for loan. Remember CD-Roms? For a brief time libraries loaned those out, before the advent of on-line services became the norm.

Now you can sit at home in your PJs and download an audio book, TV show, or movie from your library’s website. DVDs, CDs, and a variety of formats are still available to check out at your local library, along with databases to use either in the library or access remotely from anywhere, even the beach. Interested in learning a new language? Set up an account with Mango Language using your library card. Libraries have always updated collections to reflect changing formats and interests of their constituents. People and information evolve; hence, libraries evolve.

Many of the library offerings are in the virtual realm, but new and different items are finding their way to the shelves. This means that you may be seeing items on the shelves that you may not have expected. The Napa County Library offers guitars, ukuleles, binoculars and bird watching kits, telescopes and other items to check out. Interested in learning how to code? Check out a “Makey Makey”. Wondering how much electricity that old fridge in the garage is using? Check out a “KilloWatt”. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, I have to take back the statement of finding these items on the shelf — you probably won’t because they are already checked out, but please place a hold on it and get in line. We’ll make sure you get the guitar next.

Creating a Library of Things, while extremely popular with our patrons, has not been without challenges. It isn’t often that the purchasing department receives a PO for 12 blue, yellow, pink and black ukuleles. And it probably raises some eyebrows when submitting a claim to the Auditor Controller to reimburse a staff member for purchasing 25 games at Gamestop. Working with Purchasing we have filled most of the items through Amazon although we do get a few questions about why do we need to purchase a large bin of Legos (to resupply the Lego Robotics kits).

Another challenge that staff has responded to is, how do you catalog and circulate all these new items that have many parts and have never been cataloged before. Figuring out the best way to catalog an item so our patrons can find it in the catalog and our staff can keep track of it has been an interesting challenge. Another hurdle we had to overcome was where to keep these bulky items and how to package them. A guitar comes with a case, easy, but staff had to get creative when putting together the packaging for a variety of odd shaped items. Foam eggshell and cardboard tubes have been put to new and interested packaging designs.

What will the library add next to the Library of Things? That’s for our patrons to tell us. I am sure we will be getting requests and staff is ready to rise to the challenge and get items on the shelf and into someone’s hands as soon as possible. Because that’s where the Library of Things, and all the “things” at the library, books included, belong – in the hands of our patrons.

Napa County Library: empowering our community both virtually and physically through our ‘Library of Things’…


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