9 Things You Can Do at the Library Besides Read

West Chester Library Expands Beyond Book Loans
I love the library!

I noticed it a year or so ago, an article on a trend in libraries to let members borrow things that are not books or do things not related to reading. Then this winter Philadelphia Magazine did a story on it. Then as I was heading underground at the West Chester Public Library seeking out my next read, I almost ran head first into a display case of baking pans. That’s when I decided to dig into just what exactly your library card got you access to.

9 Things You Can Do at the West Chester Public Library (Besides Read a Book):

West Chester Public Library loans cake pans for short term use.
Your cake dreams come true.
  1. Borrow a baking pan

    Ever wish you could bake a cake in the shape of a bunny face or a guitar or throw the ultimate pineapple under the sea-themed party complete with a Sponge Bob Squarepants cake? Now you can. The West Chester library has a variety of cake pans available for borrowing. You must be a cardholder in good standing and you can keep the pans for up to three weeks (in case that first try doesn’t go the way you hoped).

  2. Lego club

    Open to kids four and above, Lego Club meets the second and fourth Monday of the month. The club is essentially Lego free play. The kids use their imaginations to create whatever strikes their fancies from space stations to pirate worlds, to dragon infested islands and pretty much anything in between. The kids then sign and name their creations. (Next time you’re at the library check out these creations in the children’s area. The names are some of the best parts.)

  3. Take a class

    Discover what Medicare benefits are available to you, master LinkedIn or grow your business; the library offers a variety opportunities to take free classes to expand your knowledge. They also make space available to local groups if you have an event or class you’d like to host.  

  4. Contribute to a quilt

    This modern quilting bee meets every fourth Wednesday of the month with a mission of transforming fabrics scraps into beautiful quilts for kids in need. Leave filling rewarded and accomplished (and up to date on the latest neighborhood gossip). All you need is your sewing talent and a machine, if you have one. Can’t stay? You can grab a Quilts for Kids kit to work on at home.

  5. Story time

    Combining reading, music, nursery rhymes and instructional learning, this interactive program a local favorite. Open to children zero to five, the program is so popular it can be difficult to get a spot (especially for the library’s newest members).

  6. Try an escape room

    Coming this fall the Library will by hosting an Escape the Library Ghost escape room event. Planned for a Friday evening in October continue to check the library website for details.

  7. Research your ancestry

    This one is a combination of new and old. Among the more traditional uses of the library you still have access to all the local archives and historical documents (much of this is offered in partnership with the Chester County Historical Society) but if your ancestors weren’t local, you can use the library’s membership to Ancestry.com to access their global archives for free.

  8. Test a learning tablet

    Having a hard time getting your elementary schooler interested in learning or looking for an educational alternative to screen time? Borrow a Launchpad pre-loaded learning tablet from the children’s department and let your child go wild.

  9. Join the chess club

    Or avoid technology altogether and sign your kids up to learn the original game of thrones. Open to kids ages 6 to 12.

  10. Borrow museum/zoo passes

    Members of the Chester County library system (you, if you have a library card) can borrow complimentary passes to various museums, zoos and other organizations in the area including the Elmwood Park Zoo and the Eastern State Penitentiary.

How to borrow a museum pass from the library:

  1. Search museum pass in the library catalog
  2. Reserve the pass.
  3. Pick up the pass from the participating library.
  4. Set a reminder and return the pass within three days. Fines for being late are $20/day.  

Just note, the passes need to be picked up and returned to the library that holds the pass and none of the passes are held at the West Chester library. Fine for lost passes can be pretty steep – lose the pass to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and it will cost you $124 dollars to replace.

If you are wondering why libraries are expanding beyond the book business into the experiential business, it’s got a lot to do with the countless other ways to access content in the digital age. To keep up, a study from the Dialogue on Public Libraries — a partnership of the Aspen and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundations, suggests modern libraries need to focus on “building human capital, relationships, and knowledge networks in the community.” And away from building up collection of books.

If this all makes you conjure up visions of the family great room and instead of rows of researchers burrowed away in the stacks, that very well may be the intention.

As one member of the Dialogue on Public Libraries Working Group put it, “[The library] is the family room of a community. That’s the vision, that’s the future.”

Plus, where we’ll be this weekend.

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