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More than Books

New Ulm Public Library’s ‘Library of Things’ lends out unique items

The library’s snowfort kit comes with a snowball molding device. This allows users to make the perfect snowballs to defend their fort.

NEW ULM — The public library has long been synonymous with books, but recently libraries across the country have expanded offers beyond literature.

This winter, the New Ulm Public Library has adopted a growing trend of offering a “Library of Things.” Patrons now have the option of checking other unique items and activities.

On the New Ulm Public Library’s main floor, a few feet from the circulation desk, a pinboard holds tags of the various items available for check out. If one of the tags looks interesting, take it to the front desk and the librarian will provide that item for checkout.

These items include equipment for winter activities such as sleds and snow fort building equipment. The snow fort kit includes a snowball maker. For the musically inclined, various instruments are available for rent including guitars, keyboards, electric drums, a lyre and finger piano.

Assistant Library Director April Ide said the idea behind the Library of Things was to keep patrons engaged during the winter months.

“Libraries do this all over the country,” she said.

Libraries have been experimenting with loaning unique items to patrons for years. Few libraries lend only books. Most will lend movies, CDs and other visual programs.

Ide said New Ulm Public Library has rented out puzzles for a long time. Children’s life jacket rentals have also been a staple of New Ulm’s library for years.

New Ulm’s library officially debuted the Library of Things catalog three weeks ago. Currently, there are 25 libraries of things, but the list of items is expected to grow.

Ide said alongside the Library of Things, they have introduced 23 board games for rentals. Recently, the New Ulm Library, New Ulm Cable Access Television (NUCAT) and Red Dragon Gaming partnered to produce a series of board game instructional videos called “Don’t Forget to Read the Instructions”. These videos play on the NUCAT channel and are available on YouTube. Ide said each game featured in a video is available to rent at the library.

The New Ulm Library has 23 board games available for rental. The games are located next to the Library of Things board on the main floor.

Other new items include storytime kits. The library has four of these kits, each contains multiple storybooks on a similar theme and hand-puppet.

Ide said the library will be adding 10 launchpad tablets in the next few weeks. These tablets are for kids and are themed around an age group. The tablets have no internet access but are pre-loaded with games and activities appropriate for the age range.

Other unique items available through The Library of Things are Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities.

Ide said Snap Circuits boards are popular. These boards contain magnetic pieces that snap into place. Each has a working circuit in it. The idea is kids can learn to create a working circuit system to power a device like a fan or light bulb.

One of the more strange STEM devices the library rents is a Code-a-pillar. This is a robotic caterpillar with special dials that allows a child to program the robot’s movements. The simple toy works as an introduction to basic programming.

Ten launchpads will be added to the library’s catalog. The devices come preloaded with games and activities for youth.

Ide said the most popular items to rent have been the musical instruments and board games have been the most popular items to rent, but word is still getting out about the Library of Things.

The entire Library of Things catalog can be viewed from the New Ulm Public Library’s home page. Select “Library Catalog” and patrons will find a tab for “Library of Things”.

Ide said the library is hoping to get the word out about the new items and will take suggestions on what should be added next.

Snap Circuit boards is a simple magnetic circuit board design to teach kids basic STEM skills. The library has two of these boards for rent.

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