What do a power washer, synthesizer and a go-pro camera have in common? You can check all three out of the Sacramento Public Library.
In fact, people often do check out the power washer - it's the most popular item in the "Library of Things," the collection of more than 100 tools and objects available at the Arcade branch for library card holders to check out. The collection also has lawnmowers, hedge-trimmers and weed-whackers, though all are checked out right now, probably by people who are looking to clean up their yards as spring approaches.
By request, one of the next items to go into circulation will be a rototiller for churning up soil before planting.
"It's always nice to see when someone comes in and it's the first time they've used a pressure washer, so they have some questions and we give them some information and the item and they come back and they're really excited - they were able to complete their project," said Bryce Lovell, the branch supervisor at the Arcade library. "And then they're excited to learn about maybe some of the other tools, and so it kind of opens up little worlds to folks."
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Since 2015, the Library of Things has grown from sewing machines and a bike repair station to a collection of more than 100 items, Lovell said, with musical instruments, cameras, a button-maker and hedge-trimmers getting checked out regularly. Each item can be checked out for a week at a time and card-holders can place holds on items just like they can with books.
"We have one individual who decided to use each of our tools to kind of tidy up her yard," Lovell said. "She didn't have any previous experience with anything like that, so with each one she learned a bit about it."
Sometimes the library is responding to requests when it purchases a new item, but in other cases it's an experiment to see if people will want to use it and what they might use it for, Lovell said.
"Now and again, we throw a wild card element in and see how it does," Lovell said. "The metal detector is one of those items where it's experimental and we're trying it out."
Beyond the Library of Things, the Sacramento Public Library has been steadily adding to its offerings outside of books and videos. The Central branch and the Arcade branch facilities feature Makerspaces and the Central library has long had the I Street Press, a professional grade printing press where residents can take their own writing from PDF to bound book.
"With the advent of Google, the internet, Amazon, the library sole function just being books, checking out books and research, has been shifting for at least 10 years, maybe longer," said Pam Smith, president of the Public Library Association. A key global trend is "libraries being spaces for making and doing and connecting that to learning."
"The library (as an institution) is in a unique position in that we can bring together members of the community to share their expertise," she said. From her perch as the PLA president, she's seen libraries embrace new ways of sharing knowledge in film, music, carpentry, baking, crafting and cooking.
For example, the Free Library of Philadelphia recently built a culinary-grade kitchen with a full slate of classes from simple "healthy cooking" classes to classes for people who want to be professional cooks, Smith said.
The Makerspace in the Sacramento Public Library's Central branch has a computer set up with software to record music from a keyboard, electric drum set, synthesizer and microphones. Another computer will soon be used to teach coding. Yet another computer is set up with an Oculus Rift virtual reality system.
The 3D printers whir away softly in the background in the Arcade "Design Spot", which has several of the devices, as does the Central branch.
Jenell Heimbach, library assistant at the Central branch, said since the Makerspace opened last May, people have made anything from parts for a specialty coffee maker to small busts of a late relative.
"What is exciting about the space is that it engages people and we like to provide resources within the library where they can learn further, resources outside of the library," Heimbach said. "Just to get people experiencing creating their own content, not just taking things in."
Ellen Garrison: (916) 321-1920, @EllenGarrison