Did you know that in more than a dozen communities across the United States you can actually check out a bicycle from your local library and peddle away on it? It’s true! See the full list at the end of this article.
One of those libraries is the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library, halfway between Columbus and Cleveland, in Ohio. Anticipating that people may find this new service a little odd, the library staff prepared an FAQ section on its site to explain it. The library FAQ asks “How does lending bikes fit within the mission of the library?,” and responds “The answer to this question lies in Access. The Library’s goal is to level the playing field for our customers, offering FREE access to materials … they may not be able to purchase for themselves. In our opinion, the next evolution of libraries is, in part, offering access to health and wellness information, health education or health and wellness training and tools.”
This new type of library collection requires new forms of community partnerships. In Mansfield, the library partnered with Richland Public Health and Richland Moves to create the collection. In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a local health network, the city government, a bike shop, and active transportation enthusiasts all got together with the library to create the collection. At the Portneuf District Library in Chubbuck, Idaho, East Fork Bikes, a local bike shop, was a primary partner. In Barberton, Ohio, the library checks out bicycles through its participation in a regional bike share program.
Michelle Boisvenue-Fox, director of innovation and user experience at the Kent District Library (KDL) in Central Michigan said, “A ‘bike culture’ is growing in the county and offering circulating bikes to KDL patrons supports this great effort and brings awareness to biking whether it’s for fitness or enjoyment …. It’s been fun to talk about this new service with our community partners. Their eyes light up and they get excited. It’s one more thing for them to fall in love with at KDL.”
Want to get started building your own circulating bike collection? A number of resources already exist! Camrose Public Library in Alberta, Canada, makes its bike borrowing agreement available online, so you can see what goes into checking them out. Mansfield Public Library also makes its borrowing agreement available online. They also have bike safety guidelines available to patrons.
Librarians have also prepared instructional materials for other librarians interested in expanding their collections to include bicycles. James Hill from the Athens County Public Libraries in southeast Ohio wrote a chapter on how to increase “physical activity with a library card” by checking out bicycles. His library has been circulating bicycles since May 2013. Josh Berk, the executive director of Bethlehem Area Public Library in Pennsylvania, shared his experiences lending bikes in a free webinar held in Fall 2017.
Public libraries aren’t the only libraries checking out bicycles. Roanoke College Library in Virginia checks out bicycles, as does the University of Georgia Libraries and Keene State College in New Hampshire, and many of college libraries in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Not sure if you’re ready yet to start checking out bicycles? There are plenty of other things you can do to support bicycling! For instance, you could join libraries like Mesa Public Library in Arizona that check out bike locks for patrons who bike to the library but forget a lock. Or you could do what Oakland Public Library does, and check out bicycle tools at the library. Or you could copy Berkeley Public Library, and put up a 24/7 Bike Fix-It station outside your library.
Join the conversation on bicycling and libraries! At the 2018 meeting of the Public Library Association there will be a whole session on how bicycles and public libraries can come together. The organizers are part of a group on Facebook called “Biking Librarians” that exists as a forum for librarians interested in “incorporating bicycling into their outreach services and programming schedules.”
North American public libraries that check out bicycles (Are we missing you? Add your information in the comments below!)
- Athens County Public Libraries (Ohio) – Book-A-Bike – https://www.myacpl.org/about/bikes/
- Avon Lake Public Library (Ohio) – Borrow a Bike – http://www.morningjournal.com/article/MJ/20170905/NEWS/170909765
- Barberton Public Library (Ohio) – Bike Share Program – https://www.ohio.com/akron/writers/barberton-residents-and-visitors-can-borrow-bikes
- Bethlethem Area Public Library (Pennsylvania) – Bike Bethlehem – http://www.bikebethlehem.org/
- Camrose Public Library (Alberta) – Bike Borrowing – http://cpl.prl.ab.ca/about-us/policies
- Centerburg Public Library (Ohio) – Bike borrowing program – http://mountvernonnews.com/article/2017/02/24/borrow-a-bicycle-from-the-centerburg-library-this-year/
- Dallas County Library Association – Book-A-Bike – http://www.theperrychief.com/news/20170713/book-bike-program-offers-day-long-access-to-bicycles-at-perry-public-library
- Fitchburg Public Library (Massachusetts) – Bicycle collection – http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/news/ci_31023460/you-may-be-able-borrow-bike-at-fitchburg
- Georgetown Public Library (Texas) – Bicycle Checkout – https://library.georgetown.org/bicycles-are-available-for-checkout-at-the-library/
- Kent District Library (Michigan) – KDL Cruisers – https://www.kdl.org/take-spin-kdl-cruiser
- Mansfield/Richland County Public Library (Ohio) – Check out a bike – https://www.mrcpl.org/whats-new/bike-lending-program/check-out-a-bike
- Meigs County District Public Library (Ohio) – Book a Bike – https://www.meigslibrary.org/node/639
- Meridian Library District (Idaho) – Book-A-Bike https://www.mld.org/book-a-bike
- Montgomery County Public Libraries (Pennsylvania) – Bike Share Program – http://www.ptma-mc.org/programs/free-bike-share-program/
- Portneuf District Library (Idaho) – Circulating bicycle collection – http://www.portneuflibrary.org/unique-collections.html
- Sierra Vista Public Library (Arizona) – Borrow-A-Bike – http://www.sierravistaaz.gov/city-departments/library/borrow-a-bike/
- Stark County District Library (Ohio) – BikeSmart – https://starklibrary.org/home/services/bikesmart/
- Winter Park Public Library (Florida) – Checkout Bikes – http://archive.wppl.org/info/checkout-bikes.html
- Grand Rapids Area Library (Minnesota) – Community Bike Share – https://www.getfititasca.org/non-motorized-transportation
 Mansfield/Richland County Public Library. 2018. Bike Lending Program Survey Results & FAQs. https://www.mrcpl.org/whats-new/bike-lending-program/bike-lending-survey-results-summary-and-faqs.
 Paula Schleis. 2017, May 23. Barberton residents and visitors can borrow bikes. https://www.ohio.com/akron/writers/barberton-residents-and-visitors-can-borrow-bikes.
 Camrose Public Library. Undated. Bike Borrowing Agreement. http://cpl.prl.ab.ca/about-us/policies/bike-borrowing-agreement.
 Mansfiled/Richland County Public Library. 2018. Check out a bike! https://www.mrcpl.org/whats-new/bike-lending-program/check-out-a-bike.
 James Hill. 2017. Book-a-Bike: Increasing Access to Physical Activity with a Library Card. In Audio Recorders to Zucchini Seeds: Building a Library of Things. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited. http://www.letsmovelibraries.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Book-A-Bike-Chapter.pdf.
 Josh Berk. 2017. Bike Bethlehem! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qE06Rsl5WI&feature=youtu.be&t=4m58s.
 https://www.roanoke.edu/inside/a-z_index/sustainability/rcycles_bicycle_sharing_program / https://sustainability.uga.edu/operations/transportation/bulldogbikes/ / http://www.sentinelsource.com/news/local/borrow-a-book-borrow-a-bike-a-library-linked-bike/article_d5fec2a6-af9a-52a9-8ccf-b7fa0c3dba70.html / http://startthecycle.ca/partner-locations.php
 Hard Knox Bikes. 2017. Need to borrow a bike tool?! https://hardknoxbikes.com/2017/06/20/need-to-borrow-a-bike-tool/.
 Berkeley Public Library. 2014. Tool Lending Library. https://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/locations/tool-lending-library.
 PLA 2018. 2018. Libraries Taking the Lane: Using Bikes to Connect Communities. http://www.placonference.org/program/libraries-taking-the-lane-using-bikes-to-connect-communities/.