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Monday - Saturday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm
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Monday - Saturday: 1:30 pm - 4:15 pm


Borrow a Karaoke Kit, or a Companion Cat

When people think of the public library, I’m fairly certain that books come to mind before all else. Of course libraries have lots of programs and events, and lend a multitude of other materials such as movies, museum passes, and even video games. Nowadays tech-savvy folks also take advantage of “virtual” collections of e-books, audiobooks and streaming video. Over the years the Morrill Memorial Library started thinking outside the box and lending puzzles, knitting needles, cake pans and electronics including Wi-Fi hotspots and GoPro video cameras. Whether we realized it or not at the time, we created, in library parlance, a “Library of Things.”


Lending “things” is becoming increasingly common in public libraries, and here in Norwood the community is embracing the phenomenon. Always aiming to please, we recently expanded our collection of household items, arts and crafts tools, portable electronics, games, and much more.

Did you know that you can come to the library and check out: a metal detector, a device to diagnose why your check engine light is on, a picnic basket, a ukulele, a knife sharpener, or a karaoke machine? How about a food dehydrator, color blind glasses, or a portable turntable that also converts LPs to digital audio files? Now that spring has finally arrived, the library can fulfill many of your outdoorsy needs with: a soil tester, tennis rackets, a cricket set, bike repair tools, and a birdwatching kit.

Purists may wonder why public libraries would venture in this direction and perhaps stray from their traditional purpose. Are they following a fleeting trend? Jumping on the latest bandwagon? I daresay no! On the contrary, we here at the Morrill Memorial Library are staying true to our mission statement: “The Morrill Memorial Library is a vital community center which provides innovative and effective services to all users to enrich their lives with cultural, educational and recreational programs and materials.”

We respond to the needs and wants of the diverse Norwood community, and aim to “enrich lives” in a variety of ways. Of course books and film still play a major role in carrying out this promise, but why not offer “things” as well, allowing visitors to create art, repair their homes, entertain guests, and pick up new hobbies? As with traditional library materials, we help our Norwood neighbors to save money by borrowing rather than buying, or to “try before you buy.” Hearkening back to our mission statement, we certainly hit the mark for innovation when lending out our dog training kit or disco lights. We honor cultural diversity in music traditions, offering patrons maracas, a guiro, an afuche cabasa, and a set of Indian tabla drums to bring home. In our educational role, patrons may learn how to embroider by checking out books on embroidery, accompanied by actual embroidery hoops. As for the recreational goal, the backyard horseshoes set speaks for itself.

You may have seen selections from our Library of Things on display upon entering the library recently, but as we acquired more and more, our staff decided to make room for a large browsing collection on the second floor. Anyone may search our online catalog for “postage scale” or “scientific calculator,” but it sure is fun to window shop the shelves and discover what’s new. Speaking of which, what’s the deal with the “companion cat?!” As much as I’d love to have furry friends in the library and share them with our pet-loving community, I fear we’d be guilty of animal cruelty, or health code violations. We did, however, just acquire a “Joy for All” Companion Cat, by Hasbro. I named him Morrie and adore him already. Turn him on and this cutie meows, purrs and cuddles in response to scratches and pats. At first blush one may think we’ve taken this Library of Things, thing, too far, but allow me to explain. Morrie is not just a toy like the jumping little doggies at the entrances of mall toy stores. Hasbro markets its Joy for All pets to ages 5-105, emphasizing their ability to “bring comfort, companionship, and fun to elder loved ones.” Think of Morrie as a therapy cat that never needs litterbox cleaning or trips to the vet.

Morrie the Morrill Memorial Library cat may fall into the category of assistive technology available to borrow. Along these lines, our Outreach department lends a variety of magnifiers and other devices for those with vision or hearing impairments. Come borrow a folding walker, cane or reacher if you or a loved one has a temporary mobility setback.

Attention local book clubs: the Norwood library owns over 20 book club kits – sets of ten books along with discussion questions and author bios. Next time your book group meets, no need for every member to spend money on the book or compete for a limited number of copies in the Minuteman network. Borrow the book bag and distribute them amongst yourselves.

Our website will soon feature a page devoted to the Library of Things, but in the meantime, browse our online catalog, or stop by to see it for yourself and peruse a guide to the collection on the first or second floor. Our Facebook page has a Library of Things photo album as well.

The library purchased some of our circulating things just for fun and to get everyone excited about all the new stuff we have for you. After all, today’s public libraries are a far cry from stuffy institutions full of dusty books, steadfast researchers and shushing librarians. Our shelves have no shortage of beach reads and rom-coms, hardly designed for serious academic pursuits. Many other items though, have educational, cultural, and otherwise life-enriching purposes, even Morrie (4 C batteries included).

Lydia Sampson is the Technical Services Department Head at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Look for her article in the May 2nd issue of the Norwood Transcript.


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