SUMMIT COUNTY, OHIO — If the need arises to bake a cake shaped like a snowman, or even He-Man, look no further than the Akron-Summit County Public Library to borrow the appropriate pan from the Library of Things.
And cake pans aren’t the only useful items catalogued in this special division of the library.
The Library of Things’ ever-expanding collection includes tech devices, toys, kitchen implements, art and more, said Monique Mason, manager of the business, government and science division, which houses the cake-pan collection.
“We designed them to circulate just like books,” she said. “Check them out with your library card. They go out for two weeks, they come back. And you know, there's no outrageous fines attached to them or anything.”
The Library of Things came into being to fulfill library patron requests.
“For years, we had been periodically asked by people if we had cake pans and we always said, 'No, we don’t,’” she said. “Then, one day we just said, ‘Why don’t we?’”
To launch the cake-pan collection, the Akron-Summit library took over the Madison Public Library’s collection, she said. Then, other pans were donated and some were purchased to fulfill requests.
Currently, more than 80 different shapes of cake pans are available, from an over-the-hill pan and a Playboy bunny, to Big Bird and a clown. A variety of holiday-themed pans are also available. All the pans can be requested online.
“They have been a very fun collection to work with,” Mason said. “What's the most fun is every time, you're getting someone who is picking one of these out to do something fun.”
Also available in Mason’s division are popular kitchen tools such as canning equipment, ice cream makers and cherry-pitting devices. The library bought a second ice cream maker because demand is high in summer, she said.
The division also offers a butter churn, a rice cooker and holiday cookie cutters. Like the cake pans, the tools can be requested online.
The ability to borrow things is not only convenient, it’s economic, she said.
“Part of our thinking about the kitchen tools Library of Things is when you're not sure you're going to like doing this particular thing,” she said. “Or maybe you’re only going to do it once in a while. For instance, you're only going to can once a year.”
For most Library of Things items, a waitlist is available when demand is high, she said.
Currently, the various collections within the Library of Things are spread around the library, but the long-term plan is to bring them together under one division, Mason said.
Most items have to be checked out from the main library on South Main Street in downtown Akron, but some items are available at the branches.
Those looking to borrow recreational items can check out the Library of Things collection in the Culture and AV Division, which is preparing to go live this month, said Manager Stephanie Jolliff.
The collection currently includes an array of board games and musical instruments, such as checkers and chess, and bongos and tambourines.
“Once it goes live, and we see how it circulates, we probably will end up expanding the collection and including other things,” Jolliff said.
Jolliff has her eye on adding a projector to the collection, she said, to fulfill the many requests the library receives for that equipment.
The Culture and AV Division Library of Things includes the Akron Art Library, housing a collection of pieces that can be borrowed for display for up to four weeks. Most of the artists are Ohioans, with many of them working locally, Mason said.
Most of the art pieces have to be checked out from the main library, although some art is available at the Odom Boulevard and North Hill branches.
Educational toys and things used by teachers, students and home-school families are located in the Children’s Division in the Early Childhood Resource Lab, known as the RECE Lab.
The RECE Lab also has hundreds of dies in shapes, like numbers and letters, as well as die-cutting tools, which librarians will train patrons to use, said Melissa Peeples, assistant coordinator of the lab.
Library users can request an overall orientation of the equipment available in the lab, Peeples said, or set up a training session for specific equipment.
That area also houses laminating and binding machines, but patrons aren’t permitted to use the laminating machines, she said. Projects can be dropped off for lamination. To set up a training session, call the library at 330-643-9050.
Other unique offerings include a children's “Dial a Story,” with several titles that change every month at 330-274-4400. Patrons also can check out devices that enable them to borrow a mobile hotspot for up to two weeks from the main library, or the Odom Boulevard and Maple Valley branches. Visit the Akron-Summit County Public Library online to learn more.