Once upon a time, Westport Library was all about books. (And – because so many artists and illustrators have lived here – a remarkable collection of prints, too.)
In the 1980s, the library began offering DVDs. The purists were screaming. “That’s Blockbuster’s job!” ” they said. (Of course, you can’t beat for free. Opponents quickly became one of the biggest patrons. And where is Blockbuster today?*)
Then came the MakerSpace. The main real estate on the ground floor has been devoted to computers, tools and a one-of-a-kind 3D printer. The noise level has increased. So does user engagement.
Today, Westport Library offers a lot. There are still tons of books; DVD discs (and CDs and vinyls); still a Maker Space; . Plus state-of-the-art television and audio studios; a state-of-the-art 19-foot screen and an equally great sound system; a store, cafe and more.
More a “library of things”.
It’s not the most elegant name. But there’s perhaps no better way to describe all the “things” the Library lends.
The Object Library is along the right wall (upper parking lot), on the ground floor. Stretching from near the entrance to Verso Studios (interrupted only by the restroom), there’s shelf after shelf of things to check out.
Sewing machines, battery testers, puzzles and games, metal detectors, waterproof speakers, bubble machines, a 45-cup coffee urn, ukuleles, phone and car chargers, a Hello Kitty cake pan , CD Players, Zoom Ring Lights, MIDI Controlled Keyboard, Button Makers, Smartphone Lens Kits, Golf Rangefinder, SAD Therapy Lights, Field Microphones, Portable Spotlights, a Nintendo Switch – they’re all there.
A kayak, cornhole games and disc golf sets are not there. They are too big. But they are also available.
And each of these “things” is free. All you need is a library card.
Log out and keep it for 10 days. (21 if it’s something like a sewing machine or a ukulele, which helps you learn a skill.)
Who wants to check something?
Families who need a projector for an outdoor movie. Bands are making buttons for an upcoming tour. Someone looking for hidden metal treasures in Compo or Sherwood Island. People creating their first videos. A person who bought a new car without a CD player, finishing an audiobook. Grandparents whose grandchildren will soon be visiting.
People are “astounded” when they realize everything that’s hidden in plain sight, says Kathleen Malloy, the Library’s customer experiences manager.
The available items are there on the shelves. (Except for this kayak and those outdoor lawn games.) Things that have been verified – and all the high-tech Verso things – are represented by photos.
A walk along the Library of Things is like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet – with all the cuisines, each next to the other in random order. You’ll find things you never needed or wanted, things you never knew existed, and things a friend would love (if only they knew it was here).
People found the Library of Things through word of mouth (and a mention in the Library’s monthly publication).
Once they find it, users come back. And they offer an idea. Many new items come from customer suggestions.
Westporters have always loved our library. But it’s hard to imagine someone in 1908, or 1958 – or even 2008 – saying, “Excuse me. Can I check a kayak today?
Today is the thing to do.
*In Westport, it’s a Hartford HealthCare center.
(Like Westport Library, “06880” relies on community support. Please click here to help.)