Five Libraries That Go Beyond Books

Image courtesy Flickr user Edison German

Public libraries can often go underappreciated in the days of Netflix, Spotify and Kindle. But that doesn't mean they should go unnoticed. As many public libraries grapple with how to stay relevant in the digital age, a few are standing out for their unique offerings that provide their community with much more than books. Check them out:

Piscataway Public Library

Most customers are used to visiting their local library to borrow things, but Piscataway Public Library in New Jersey gives them an opportunity to be creative. Through their "Makeityourself" program, the library offers a makerspace for the community. Whether it be through special programs or during open hours, library users have access to 3D printers, a 3D scanner, audio-recording equipment and even a digital vinyl cutter. More low-tech library customers can stop in to use a sewing machine or a button maker.

Free Library of Philadelphia

Most libraries have hosted authors for book discussions, but the Free Library of Philadelphia takes it one step furthur. They record the author events and share them as free podcasts, so anyone can listen to them. Called the Free Library Podcast, the library has over 1,200 events recorded, ranging from former head of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan to bestselling author David Baldacci to humorist Amy Sedaris.

Oakland Public Library

Ever needed to borrow a concrete cutting saw, a posthole digger or even a staple gun? Chances are you wouldn't think to go to your library. The Oakland Public Library offers all of these at its tool-lending library. Offering over 3,500 different tools, this library lends two tools at a time for up to a week. They also offer workshops, books and how-to DVDs to help do-it-yourselfers with their home improvement and repair projects.

Toronto Kitchen Library

Although not a traditional public library, the nonprofit Toronto Kitchen Library allows its membership access to a full pantry of cooking equipment. Whether you need a 36-cup coffee maker, a breadmaker or even a raclette, the Toronto Kitchen Library has it. Items can be borrowed for seven days.

Spokane Public Library

Aspiring filmmakers in Spokane, Washington, are in luck. The Spokane Public Library circulates video kits that include an HD digital video camera and a shotgun-style microphone. For the more advanced, they also offer wireless microphones and telescoping mic booms.