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11 Things You Can Borrow From Libraries Besides Books

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There’s more to libraries than just plain old books. Many, if not most, also have movies, music, and audio and ebooks to lend out. But what about a parking pass for a Civil War fort? Or a circular saw? Well, depending on where you live, you can borrow those, too. Here are just a few odds and ends that some libraries lend out.  

1. Fishing Poles 

If you’re not ready to commit to buying your own fishing gear, your local library might have you covered. Erie, Pennsylvania’s Blasco Library, for example, loans out fishing poles and tackle boxes, while several branches of the Chicago Public Library run a “Rods and Reads” program that provides poles and tackle sets for adults and kids.

2. Museum Passes 

A bunch of libraries lend out passes for free or discounted admission to museums and other institutions. Chicago libraries have “Museum Passports” good for admission for families of four to 15 different area attractions like the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium. The Fairfield Public Library in Connecticut lends admission passes for 42 different museums in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. In Michigan, the Library Network provides “Michigan Activity Passes” [PDF] for admission or discounts at more than 100 museums, galleries, and other institutions across the state. Georgia libraries have passes for Georgia State Parks and historic sites that provide admission for four people and cover parking fees.

3. Art

Need something pretty to hang on your wall, or a conversation piece for your mantle? Libraries in Ann Arbor, Minneapolis, Iowa City, Aurora, Ill., and Braddock, Penn. have original artwork, prints, posters, and even sculptures that you can take home and display.

4. Internet Access

The Chicago Public Library and New York Public Library both loan out mobile hotspots so patrons can have mobile broadband Internet access at home or on the go. 

5. A Book Club 

At the Ann Arbor District Library, you can borrow a Book Club To Go, with 10 copies of a featured book (the selections range from best-sellers to the obscure, and include fiction and non-fiction), a DVD if a movie adaptation exists, and a packet that contains discussion questions and tips for running a book club. The Edwardsville Public Library in Illinois has a similar service called Book Club in a Box.

6. Seeds 

Arizona’s Pima County Public Library has seeds for hundreds of types of vegetables, herbs, and flowers that patrons can take home and plant in their gardens. You can’t return them like books, of course, but the library encourages borrowers to save and donate seeds from their grown plants. 

7. Power Tools 

Have a home project you wanna do yourself? The Berkeley and Oakland public libraries both have a variety of carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electrical, and landscaping tools to lend out. The Ann Arbor library also has a tool collection, but focuses on “uncommon tools that you might not have lying about,” like thermal leak detectors and air quality meters. 

8. Musical Instruments 

The Ann Arbor library’s instrument collection also centers around the uncommon and unusual. You can borrow everything from guitar effects pedals to theremins and voice transformers. If you’re going for a different sound, the Forbes Library in Northampton, Mass. has banjos, bongos, and ukuleles. 

9. A Green Screen

Take your home movies to the next level with help from the Skokie, Ill. public library’s digital media lab. They’ve got computers loaded with video editing software, microphones and mic stands and, for those digital effects-heavy scenes, a green screen.

10. A Dog 

Stressed out Yalies can stop by the Lillian Goldman Law Library and “check out” General Montgomery, a certified therapy dog owned by one of the librarians, for a 30-minute petting session. 

11. A Person

Libraries around the world host “human library” programs where visitors can sit down with human “books” and learn about their different cultures, backgrounds, and life experiences. 

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literature
A Chicago Library Needs Help Transcribing 17th-Century Spellbooks
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Interested in dabbling in 17th-century witchcraft in your spare time? The Newberry Library in Chicago could use your help. As Quartz reports, the independent research library is calling on citizens to translate and transcribe three books dealing with spells and witches that date back to the 1600s.

The manuscripts—The Book of Magical Charms, The Commonplace Book, and Cases of Conscience Concerning Witchcraft—have been scanned and uploaded to the library's open transcription portal. Consisting of archaically spelled English and Latin text handwritten on yellowed, water-stained pages, the content is difficult for most modern-day readers to make sense of. But those who can decipher it will be treated to such eye-opening passages as a remedy for nosebleeds, a reflection on the ethics of witch hanging, and one medicinal use for a dead man's tooth.

Pages from the texts are available to view online with text boxes below for readers to contribute their transcriptions and translations. Several portions have already been decoded, like a section on activating a magic seal ("write in virgin parchment the blood of a lamb") and tips for conjuring ("work should be with a crescent moon"). Once transcriptions have been written and reviewed by the library, they will be added to the institution’s digital collection. There anyone will be able to browse through centuries-old advice on dealing with menstrual pain and contacting the dead, even if they can't understand centuries-old English.

[h/t Quartz]

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This Chinese Library's Interior Is Designed to Look Like an Infinite Tunnel of Books
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The Chinese city of Yangzhou is known for its graceful arched bridges and proximity to the Yangtze River and the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. Architects kept these unique local features in mind while designing Zhongshuge Yangzhou, a new bookstore and library that was completed in 2016.

Designed by Shanghai studio XL-Muse Architects, the building has black, mirrored floors and arched ceilings that symbolize Yangzhou’s famous waterways and overpasses. The floor reflects the store’s curving shelves to create the illusion of a never-ending tunnel of books—a true bibliophile’s dream.

Learn more about Yangzhou’s unique library/bookstore below, courtesy of Great Big Story.

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