Bucks County Libraries lend more than books

It’s time to start thinking beyond books when it comes to your local library.

Libraries across the country are expanding their collections to offer fun and practical items to borrow, and the Bucks County Free Library is no exception.

By providing uncommon items like telescopes and ukuleles, people have the opportunity to take what they read and experience it first-hand, explained Holly Ambrose, director of collections management for the County Free Library. of Bucks.

“Our goal at the beginning was to satisfy the curiosity of children and adults. We wanted to offer different things that you might not have thought of or might not know about,” Ambrose said.

In launching its non-book collection, the library initially focused on educational toys and cooperative board games, but has since expanded its catalog over the years to include hundreds of items – from detectors to studs and musical washboards to ladder balls and telescopes.

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Whether it’s stimulating interest in a new hobby or providing a useful tool for a weekend project, Ambrose said the collection has benefited his customers in a number of surprising ways.

“We have metal detectors that someone borrowed from us to find a lost wedding ring in their garden. It worked and he found it,” she said.

The library has also built up its collection of party supplies. Browse the shelves and you might find a karaoke machine, disco and strobe lighting, a bubble machine and more. Backyard games, like cornhole and bocce, are also available to borrow.

“We are always looking for new things to pass around. If someone were to throw a kid’s party, you’re not going to want to buy a fog machine. We wanted to offer things that you wouldn’t normally want to buy, but that could add another element to the party,” Ambrose said.

Emily Weber-Wood, marketing and fundraising specialist for the Bucks County Free Library, tests out a new disco light, Wednesday, August 31, 2022. The light is among many party supplies available for loan as part of the library non-collection of books.

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To discover all the non-book items the library has to offer, check out their online catalog and type non-book in the search bar.

Items in circulation at any of the library’s seven branches – Bensalem, Doylestown, Langhorne, Levittown, Perkasie, Quakertown or Yardley-Makefield – can be put on hold and will be delivered to the branch of your choice.

However, items listed at one of the 11 district member libraries, which are also included in the online catalog, must be checked out directly from there. Each of these libraries operates independently and has its own unique collections.

“If you haven’t checked your library in a while, check them out now. You’ll be surprised what your library has,” said Kim Ingram, director of the Southampton Free Library.

A variety of household tools are available for loan at the Bucks County Free Library, as part of its non-book collection.

Southampton is one of the district libraries that offer passes to museums like the Mütter Museum, Academy of Natural Sciences, Bucks County Children’s Museum or Elmwood Park Zoo.

“Our most popular thing by far is our museum passes and for good reason because it’s expensive for a family to buy them themselves,” Ingram said.

“It’s also an opportunity to enrich our community, another thing that we can pass on to people and introduce them to places they may not know,” she added.

Museum passes, as well as hotspot and Roku devices, can be reserved using the Southampton Free Library online reservation system. Each library has its own rules for reserving certain items, so be sure to contact that location directly.

Other items in Southampton’s non-book collection include knitting needles, a disc golf set, an extensive collection of board games and their seed library.

“We’re not your average library,” Ingram said, noting that libraries must continually adapt to stay relevant in their communities.

“We have to pay attention to our communities, pay attention to what is happening and respond to their needs, otherwise people will forget about us and it will harm society,” she said.

“I feel like it’s one of those places that is for everyone, with equal access to information, without judgment and a place where everyone is welcome. Losing a library would be tragic.

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