9 Amazing Things You Can Take Out From the Library

From puppets to infrared technology, you can find it at a Rhode Island library -- unless it's already checked out.

A trip to the library has changed. You can still browse the latest fiction releases, but you can also check out an iPad at libraries including Warwick and East Providence, take out digital recorders and mobile hot spots from the Providence Public Library, and stream video from home through the Ocean State Library system.

These days, libraries are providing "experience as much as information," says Gayle Wolstenholme, the director of the Glocester Manton Library and Harmony Library.

You can borrow an Elmo cake pan for your child’s birthday, or take out a tool to measure how much heat you’re losing in your home. It’s an opportunity to try something out or check out an item you only plan to use once (though you could always renew).

"We certainly understand the economy of lending," Wolstenholme says. (Resource-strapped libraries typically acquire these items from donations.) She's surveying to gauge patron interest in a telescope, metal detector, even a game camera to catch footage of those pesky coyotes in the back yard.

With help from Jessica D’Avanza, community services librarian at Barrington Public Library and other library staff throughout the state, we’ve put together a list of great things you might not know you can borrow from Rhode Island’s libraries:

1.    American Girl doll Addy Walker. Based on a character from the Civil War era who escaped the South for freedom, Addy was donated by a patron who had read an article about people giving unusual items to libraries, says Elise Petrarca, youth services librarian at William Hall Library in Cranston. Addy comes with a book about her life, and "she can go out and spend a week having a sleepover," Petrarca says. Sometimes Addy is checked back in with her hair styled "very interesting-ly." "The only thing we ask is that people don’t cut their hair and write on them." William Hall Library, 1825 Broad St., Cranston, 401-781-2450, cranstonlibrary.org/location/william-hall-library.

2.    Cake Pans. Planning to make a cake for Halloween or a birthday? Browse from a selection of aluminum witches, pumpkins, Santas, Mickeys, Minnies and Winnie the Poohs. The pans are all donated. After all, asks Brenda D’Quanno, youth services librarian at North Scituate Library, "How many times can you use a Barney cake pan?" Cake pans can be checked out at North Scituate Library, 606 W. Greenville Rd., North Scituate, 401-647-5133, scituatelibrary.org; Harmony Public Library, 195 Putnam Pike, Harmony, 401-949-2850, harmonylibrary.org; and Coventry Public Library, Coventry Public Library, 1672 Flat River Rd., Coventry, 401-822-9100, coventrylibrary.org.

3.    Fishing Poles. Coventry Public Library lends out fishing poles for both adults and kids, along with tackle boxes. They’re popular in the summer, says circulation librarian Annette Nester: "People borrow them for vacation." Coventry Public Library, Coventry Public Library, 1672 Flat River Rd., Coventry, 401-822-9100, coventrylibrary.org.

4.    Puppets. Coventry Public Library also has "quite the menagerie" of animal puppets, including crocodiles and dinosaurs, along with Disney and Sesame Street characters like Elmo. "Sometimes the puppets need to be renewed, because the kids get a little attached to them," Nester explains. Woonsocket Public Library also lends toys and puzzles. Coventry Public Library, 1672 Flat River Rd., Coventry, 401-822-9100, coventrylibrary.org; Woonsocket Public Library, 303 Clinton St., Woonsocket, 401-769-9044, woonsocketlibrary.org.

5.     Apple Pickers. Island Free Library’s collection includes two apple pickers. You have to come in and check them out, and no, they don’t put them on the ferry. This is the busy season for the pickers, says circulation clerk Judith Mitchell. “In fact, I don’t know if we’ve got one in.” (Update: Both are checked out.) Island Free Library, Dodge Street, Block Island, 401-466-3233, islandfreelibrary.org.

6.    Kill A Watt Power Meter. Interested in how much energy you’re using? This tool measures the amount of electricity used by appliances. Glocester Manton Library, 1137 Putnam Pike, Chepachet, 401-568-6077, glocestermanton.org.

7.    Laser Infrared Thermometer. Also available for check out at Glocester Manton Library, the device allows you to test the temperature at different places in your house, so you can get a sense of how much heat you’re losing. Glocester Manton Library, 1137 Putnam Pike, Chepachet, 401-568-6077, glocestermanton.org.

8.    Bike Locks. A lot of people ride their bikes to the Pawtucket Library. And if you forget your lock, you’re in luck, you can borrow a lock so your bike is safe as you browse, says library director Susan Reed. The library also experimented with lending out lawn chairs so that people could use them in the library’s outdoor spaces, and may bring them back next year. Pawtucket Library, 13 Summer St., Pawtucket, 401-725-3714, pawtucketlibrary.org.

9.    Heirloom Seeds. Last year Garden Club members at William Hall Library in Cranston helped start a seed library. Active in spring and summer, the garden club members get organic, heirloom seeds from local farms such as Scratch Farm to grow tomatoes, kale, parsnips and some flowers. They guide people through the process and encouraged them to save their seeds and bring them back for the next year. “It’s an easy way to try out gardening,” Petrarca says. William Hall Library, 1825 Broad St., Cranston, 401-781-2450, cranstonlibrary.org.


BONUS: We have since learned that you can also take out telescopes and a jewelry making kit from Greenville Public Library, 573 Putnam Pike, Greenville, 401-949-3630, yourlibrary.ws.