The public library’s role is changing in the 21st century. Although digital services encompass a large portion of that change, public libraries are a critical resource center for many different types of resources. It is one thing to offer a local history or graphic novel collection, but it is entirely different to offer cake pans and fishing rods for circulation. In a time where household budgets are tight, patrons are relying on their public library in different ways. Patrons look to their public library for a variety of reasons, including fulfilling entertainment and informational needs.
Unique collections, collections that offer materials beyond books and media, offer patrons the chance to take their interests off the page. At the Central Mississippi Regional Library (LA), patrons can check out scrapbook kits that include stencils, punches, die cutters, and dies. Want to try out a new instrument? The Lopez Island Library (Wash.) has patrons covered with their collection of violins, ukuleles and keyboards, offered through collaboration with the dean of the Lopez Island School of Music Advocacy Foundation. In addition to checking-out books on home improvement, patrons can also check-out power and hand tools at the Oakland Public Library (CA) – aiding patrons in crossing items off their to-do lists!
Unique collections also offer unique community partnerships and programming opportunities. Telescopes for Libraries is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to promote scientific literacy by providing libraries with easy-to-use to telescopes. The P.D Brown Memorial Library (MD) not only offers a cake pan lending library, but cake decorating programs as well. A very unique collection is the Human Library. Initially started as project in Denmark, Human Libraries allow patrons to “check-out” a human book – a volunteer from the community who publicly represents a certain group. The mission of the Human Library is to promote communication in a community, encourage understanding, and provide answers from primary, human sources.
Keep in mind that unique collection development follows the same notion of general collection development – invest in what the community wants or will find use in. Surveying patrons and the community would be the best way to gauge the interest for a unique collection.With some creative thinking, public libraries will continue to meet the needs of their communities and stay relevant in the 21st century.
Does you library have any unique circulating collections?
What unique collections do you think your community would be interested in?