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Hopkinton Public Library Foundation donation sponsors ‘library of things’

by | Jun 14, 2021 | Featured, Featured: Features

To celebrate its 10th anniversary of support to the local library, the Hopkinton Public Library Foundation (HPLF) is donating $10,000 to expand library borrowing capabilities by launching a “library of things” scheduled to open this fall.

The library of things concept has become a growing trend both regionally and nationwide. Library-based versions exist in states spanning from California to Connecticut. Globally, free-standing libraries of things can be found in Canada, Germany and Australia, among other countries, according to Wikipedia. They allow patrons to borrow items such as computers, games and musical instruments in addition to books and audiotapes.

“By funding a library of things, the Hopkinton Public Library Foundation aims to provide the physical tools needed to support lifelong learning and creativity and provide new ways for kids and adults to interact and explore,” according to HPLF chair Laura Barry. “As such, the collection will greatly enhance the library’s mission to inspire exploration, discovery and engagement in our community.”

Katherine Davenport, a member of the HPLF Board of Trustees, explained that the foundation contributed more than $1 million to support the library’s renovation and expansion. This expansion has led to a greater capacity to lend items.

“The idea was first floated for the Hopkinton community in a survey in 2018,” she said. “Residents had a high level of interest as moving the concept forward as one of its top priorities. This sentiment was echoed when it became part of the 2020 strategic plan.”

In addition, she and other board members did research on current libraries of things locally in Brookline, Framingham, Newton and Scituate.

“The excitement was so overwhelming, especially with libraries close to us,” Davenport said. “Before, the library was contained not by its creativity but by a lack of space.”

The $10,000 came about because the foundation exceeded its goal of $1 million and wanted to use the funds to bring this concept to life.

“One of the nice things about a library of things is the premise that it allows people to use information and items that they might not have access to otherwise,” Davenport continued. “People may want to try to learn a musical instrument but would not have the resources available.”

She added that Newton was able to lend out donated instruments that were repaired by volunteers and tuned by a local musician.

“It was the right time for this opportunity,” Davenport said, noting that there is a renewed interest in going to libraries now that they have reopened after the pandemic shuttered them for months across the state.

“I talked to a patron [last week] who didn’t know about it but was really excited about the concept,” she said. “People are really valuing the resources we offer. This will allow the library to expand its opportunities even further.”

The funding will go toward the purchase of new items, including instruments, computers, crafting materials and the packaging needed to lend them out.

“We have been working with Imagine Corps to brainstorm an event for teens to gather their input,” she said about a June 8 event with a local community service-based organization. “We want to find out what will be wanted and valued by the community.”

Added Davenport: “One thing we learned from looking at other communities is that puzzles and games are popular items. Another example is knitting materials. If a person wants to learn but doesn’t want to buy the knitting needles and the yarn, he or she can try knitting out through the library. Then they can see if it’s something they like without making a commitment.”

Another area where this can be useful is with technology. People who want to buy a laptop can decide what model to purchase after borrowing different models from the library first.

“The sky is wide open in terms of what we can provide,” Davenport said.

In a way, she said the Hopkinton Public Library started the concept several years ago by lending out one item — a telescope.

“Scout troops loved to borrow it,” she noted. “People started holding programs about viewing the stars with it. We’re excited about adding that kind of thing on a larger scale.”

Davenport said she can feel the momentum for the library of things growing already.

“It’s hard to put a program in a bad light,” she noted. “People are just starting to go out, and they want to explore different things.”

Library director Heather Backman said she is grateful for the foundation’s “fantastic support” of the library of things. The next step is engaging the community in learning what items people would like to have available.

“We are really excited and very grateful for the foundation’s support and the community donations that allowed this to be put into place for the benefit of the town,” she said.

People should be “on the lookout” for the community survey to gauge interest in particular items in the next few weeks (email Backman at hbackman@hopkintonma.gov for more information). [Update, June 21: The survey has been pushed back to late summer/early fall.]

“We are more likely to have a series of adding things to it over time,” she explained. “The staff will be discussing it internally over the summer.”

One thing she stressed is that the library is not accepting donations at this time.

“We plan on purchasing everything new,” Backman said. “It is early enough in the planning and implementation process that we can learn people’s interests and buy accordingly.”

Chromebooks are expected to be popular, she added, as are crafting materials and games. Musical instruments and gaming devices also are being considered.

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