Now accessible during your internal library: non-books – The Boston Globe

July 19, 2017 - garden totes

A integrate of years ago, Glenn Ferdman, a gangling Midwesterner who wears thick-rimmed glasses, motionless he owned too many guitars. He knew he could sell them or enclosure them divided in a storage enclosure somewhere. But Ferdman is a librarian, that means it’s his pursuit to find new ways to share resources — and adding a small bit of fun along a approach doesn’t hurt.

So he took his gangling guitars to a categorical bend of a Somerville Public Library, where he serves as director, and asked his staff to lend them to congregation as if they were books. “What we discovered, to a delight, is those equipment started drifting off a shelf,” Ferdman says.


Other staff members shortly done donations of their own. The conduct of circulation, an pledge guitarist who’s lustful of James Taylor, concluded to balance a guitars when they were returned.

A Somerville city counsel drafted a lending agreement, in box instruments were shop-worn or disappeared. These days, a collection includes 3 acoustic guitars, one ukulele, and one West African djembe. If we hunt for “hand drum” in a catalog of a Minuteman Library Network, comprising 43 libraries in suburban Boston, it yields an surprising listing: “3-D OBJECT | Available during SOMERVILLE/Adult.”

By expanding a collections over media, a Somerville library assimilated a tellurian transformation to enlarge a purpose of open libraries. As readers switch from printed books and periodicals to smartphones and tablets, library visits are dropping, even with some-more than 90 percent of libraries carrying combined e-book lending. But that doesn’t meant libraries are obsolete. Almost 90 percent of people surveyed for a 2015 Pew Research investigate pronounced shutting their internal library would have an impact on a community. What consult respondents pronounced they wanted were stretched educational programs, including record centers with 3-D printers and other digital tools, and lessons on how to use them. They also wanted to see libraries persevere reduction space to books, some-more to village activities.

Libraries of things have turn a thing in a Boston area. In Brookline, library label holders can even check out cake pans. Some of Wilmington Memorial Library’s offerings embody grass games and transport kits (consisting of city or country-related beam and denunciation books, DVDs, maps, and a selfie hang in a receptacle bag). Lexington lends out a sewing appurtenance and a unstable record player, while Reading has a Roomba available. One night this spring, Billerica Public Library hosted a “human library,” where volunteers (among them a transgender person, a stutterer, and a military officer) offering a few mins of one-on-one time to “borrowers” who wanted to ask them questions about their experiences.

Libraries, of course, were built for books, mostly. The categorical bend of a Somerville Public Library is a squat, century-old building assembled (literally) of bricks and mortar. The low-pitched instrument collection is kept in a sealed side room that’s cluttered with label boxes. It’s not clear, from a essence of a room, that this is a library during all. Next door, a teen room frequently hosts film screenings.


Patrons can select a low-pitched instrument they wish to steal from a navigator during a front desk. On a customary day, a list is lonesome with gummy records that contend “OUT.” Borrowers have a month to lapse them (but usually after they pointer a lending agreement, that binds them obliged for any detriment or repairs and warns, maybe unnecessarily, “Musical instruments contingency not be returned around a book drop”).

Even yet it creates adult usually a fragment of a equipment borrowed, a quirky collection during a Somerville library has stretched and evolved. In fact, before guitars, Ferdman and his colleagues acquired a span of binoculars, interconnected it with a book about bird species, threw in a biography for holding notes, and finished a whole raise as a “bird-watching kit” in a Friends of a Library receptacle bag. They also offer a loaner telescope, acquired from a internal astronomical society, and a library of toys, donated by a internal high propagandize student, Naomi Rafal.

“I was unequivocally propitious to have entrance to whatever toys we wanted when we was little,” says Rafal, who paid for a new toys with a present from her uncle. She was primarily incited divided by a staff member who felt there was too small space to store them. But Rafal persisted, creation a box that all children should be means to learn and play. Even if their relatives don’t have a lot of money, she says, “they should have entrance to toys.”

Somerville has relied on donations, mostly from library staff, for a nontraditional collections. But a success could lead to extend appropriation or a dedicated bill in a future.

Programs like this are about some-more than putting dry guitars to work. They’re about expanding access — not usually to knowledge, yet also to hobbies, tools, and skills. “Libraries have, in new years, turn places not usually where we can passively catch information,” Ferdman says, “but places where we actively rivet with and emanate stuff.”

Angela Veizaga, a librarian who works with teenagers during a Boston Public Library, agrees libraries currently face vigour to denote their relevance. “I know people consider libraries are usually places where we review books quietly, yet we’re perplexing to change that,” she says. In 2014, Veizaga helped start a library of seeds during a BPL’s Mattapan bend (the Grove Hall and East Boston branches also participated). “We were perplexing to figure out a approach to display an civic open to a judgment of flourishing your possess vegetables,” she says.

When staff detected dual new flower beds behind a library, they asked Boston Natural Areas Network, a village organization, to share materials and advice. BNAN also donated adequate seeds to get a plan going. Veizaga found that like a garden itself, a seed module rewarded unchanging watering. Staff members replenished seeds and guided immature congregation who wanted to work in a library plot; many kids took seeds and books home and were speedy to lapse seeds from their harvest. The earthy garden was usually one partial of a training experience. “A lot of a kids didn’t wish to eat vegetables,” says Veizaga, who now works during a library’s executive bend in Copley Square. “They aren’t unequivocally unprotected to uninformed vegetables.”

illustration by Mike Ellis

Indeed, Mattapan and collection of adjacent Dorchester are infrequently described as “food deserts,” since they miss uninformed food and supermarket options. One day, Veizaga took a organisation out to a garden and popped a creatively picked tomato into her mouth, as a kind of encouragement. The initial child who followed fit announced, “This tastes like candy!”

Arun Sundararajan, a business highbrow during New York University and author of The Sharing Economy, thinks libraries of things can assistance emanate a village of like-minded locals. “It’s roughly like a library, while being a repository of assets, is unequivocally a entertainment place of people with common interests,” he says. Programs like these can also lift those in a reduce rungs of society, he adds. “They democratize entrance to a aloft customary of vital by stealing a separator of ownership.”

Just as a park or a village garden creates immature space permitted to residents who competence not have their possess gardens, then, these “libraries of things” let people try opposite ways of living.

Ferdman, a Somerville librarian, agrees that open libraries — and libraries of things — are designed “to arrange of turn a personification margin between a haves and a have-nots.” Just as open libraries offer English classes and workshops to families that can’t means private tutors, nontraditional lending can enthuse and commission destiny generations. “It might smooth a ardour of some kid, who might turn a budding — who knows — biologist or anthropologist or geologist,” he says.

Libraries have a abounding tradition that belies a classify of unrelenting librarians station ensure over stores of books, Ferdman says. “If we go behind by a literature, and by a story quite of open libraries, you’ll learn that this is not indispensably a new phenomenon,” he says. Research libraries have collected, if not lent, art and low-pitched instruments for thousands of years. And in a 1970s, a lending library for collection non-stop in Berkeley, California.

Certain items — particularly those that are costly, specialized, or frequency used — might be pronounced to lend themselves to lending. Musical instruments can cost hundreds of dollars to buy or even rent. A New York library lends out neckties to folks who can mostly get by though owning one. Similarly, a Brookline Village bend of a town’s library has some-more than 50 kinds of cake pans in shapes from butterflies to baby buggies.

Libraries that assistance we borrow, rather than buy, could also assistance wand off buyer’s remorse. Jim Ventura, a conduct of dissemination during a Somerville library, says one immature patron’s mom had her son check out a guitar to see how he favourite it. Ventura says a child “kind of got it out of his system. He didn’t wish to buy a guitar after that.”

On a new morning during a Boston Public Library’s East Boston branch, Djaz Idakaar, a programs and overdo librarian, plucked a strawberry from a branch’s garden plot. (The Mattapan bend also still offers a seed library.) Schoolchildren played and ran around in a background, and Idakaar talked about gardening as a approach of cultivating immature minds. “I’m anticipating that by planting those seeds, pardon a pun, that they will consider about food a small bit differently,” Idakaar says. “It’s not something that comes from a can, it’s not something that comes from a store, yet it’s something that we can emanate with your possess hands.”

The library keeps orderly labeled seed packets (cilantro, squash, Thai prohibited pepper, and tomato, to name a few) in a label catalog — as if to infer that aged spaces can always find a new use.

Daniel A. Gross is a author and open radio writer in Somerville. Send comments to Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.

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