A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

News & Opinion

Borrowing Art @ The Library

by on November 5, 2013

I love to hear stories about art being made more accessible to everyday people. Besides books, I love art, but cannot always find the time or extra spending money to drive to local museums. Library Journal posted a story about two art lending libraries, one in Minneapolis and the other in Iowa City, where people can “check out” 3D artworks and take them home. I was intrigued by this ingenious idea. These kinds of programs foster the arts and improve education and access to them. It also provides the artists with an unconventional means of exhibiting their work and reaching a wider audience. I only wish there was a similar program in the L.A. area!

In Minneapolis, the Ledge Gallery, run by a group of volunteer artists, gives folks a chance to “borrow original works of art for two month periods, free of charge.”[1] A schedule for borrowing and return times is available on the gallery’s website. A variety of art mediums are offered, from photography to sculpture. When visiting museums, I have often wished that I could have just a little more time with the pieces I enjoy most. People may feel the art world is stuffy and inaccessible. While it’s impossible to “borrow” your favorite Monet, this model breaks down barriers and gets people even closer to the artworks they admire. But the most encouraging idea is Iowa City Public Library’s Art-To-Go program. Using their library card, patrons are able to choose from a wall of artworks and check them out for a two month loan period. The collection has grown from about 50 works to 400![2] The librarian noted about 60-80 percent of the collection, which is purchased from local artists, is often checked out, with borrowers ranging from students (the largest group) and teachers to businesses.[3] While this program is not feasible for every library, I think this story proves libraries offers unique services to their patrons. By being creative, this library has made a popular program stick (it was started in the 1960s) and helped make art a greater part of people’s lives.[4] It is encouraging to know the arts are not completely forgotten. Kudos to the artists and librarians who are making this all possible!


[1] “Art Lending Library – the ledge,” Accessed September 19, 2013,  http://www.theledgempls.com/art-lending-library.html.

[2] Forrest Saunders, “Iowa City Public Library Offers Art-To-Go,” KCRG.com, August 28, 2013, accessed September 19, 2013, http://www.kcrg.com/news/local/Iowa-City-Public-Library-Offers-Art-To-Go-221583221.html.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Tags: ,

Leave a comment

Name required