Guilderland, NY – What is a Library of Things, you might ask? Well, it is a collection of non-traditional library materials you can borrow and use, without having to buy them.
These days, you can read about the emerging “sharing economy.” This is where people band together to purchase and share things that they need or want, but don’t necessarily need to own. There are car-sharing programs, bike-sharing programs, and many more examples.
The sharing economy actually started a couple of hundred years ago—with public libraries! In the 19th century, when the only entertainment and information medium was books, libraries got started by using public funds to purchase books that the community could share.
Ours is among the leading Capital Region libraries growing and changing to meet the needs of our communities through sharing programs, such as our Library of Things. You can see our full Library of Things online here: https://guilderlandlibrary.org/library-of-things/.
We’ll get to the full spectrum of items in a moment, but let’s start with those cord-cutting devices. As you know, many people are finding that cable television is really expensive, and not necessarily the most efficient or user-friendly way to get entertainment through their television. The cord-cutting approach is simple, and there are many ways to get out from under free from that huge monthly bill, so we thought that if we pulled together the most prominent devices in our library, you could take them home and try them before you buy.
We recommend starting with an HD TV antenna. Borrow one of these, attach it to the “Antenna In” jack on the back of your TV, and disconnect your cable. Then do a channel scan, and you’ll likely get a list of 12 – 15 TV stations, particularly local channels, which your TV can access simply with this antenna, rather than cable. The antennas we are circulating only cost $6 at the store, but our hope is that people who might not try this via a purchase will try it through the library. Our website also includes a helpful link to a site where you can enter your zip code, and find out what channels are likely available “over the air” with the aid of an HD TV antenna.
Most people, of course, would like access to more than just 12 channels, and more approaches than just local. (In our household, for example, we like HGTV, CNN, and various sports channels.) That’s where our next round of streaming devices comes in.
We have Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku devices you can check out. Simply plug them into the HDMI port on your TV, and see how they work. This approach is generally cheaper than subscribing to a bundle of hundreds of channels you are not necessarily interested in for a fat monthly fee. And what’s even better is that your favorite shows are on when you want them to be, rather than when a network chooses to show them. Check out these devices and see if cord cutting is right for you.
Our broader Library of Things includes four more categories: “Gadgets,” “Home and Hobby,” “Kits,” and “Games.” Each of these is easily found on our website.
Gadgets include virtual reality headsets, Echo Dots, GoPro cameras, Wi-Fi hotspots, and portable battery packs for electronic devices. Going on a trip? Check out a Wi-Fi hotspot and/or a portable battery pack, so you don’t run out of power.
Home and Hobby includes our oldest “thing,” fishing rods. They come all strung and loaded, so you can check out a few, buy some bait, and go fishing. You can even buy your fishing license here! Other items in Home and Hobby include cake pans, cookie cutters, folding tables for parties, holidays or garage sales, and helpful electronic devices such an automotive code reader, which can help you figure out what it means when a warning light comes on. There’s also the Kill-A-Watt, which measures energy use in home appliances, and helps you determine when it would be cost-effective to replace them with newer models.
Kits include the popular “Birthday in a Backpack” Kit, which helps busy parents hold a thematic birthday party by including fun items that basically set up the party for you—choose Pirates, Princesses, Dinosaurs, Space, and many other themes. There are also themed storytime kits perfect for educators, nursery schools, and babysitters to use. And our friends at Western Turnpike Rescue Squad have put together two CPR kits, which help you learn the basics of this life-saving technique.
We also have games, including more than 30 family board games, and lawn games including Giant Jenga, Kadima, Cornhole, and KanJam.
Come on in and check out our ever-growing Library of Things! They are ready for you to borrow in a display next to the Information Desk.
Timothy Wiles, Director
Guilderland Public Library
Tim Wiles is the Director of the Guilderland Public library, and was Director of Research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum from 1995-2014. He lives in Guilderland with his wife Marie and their son, Ben, who attends Lynnwood Elementary School. He is active with Guilderland Cares and the Guilderland Library Foundation.