Picture this: Your dinosaur-obsessed nearly-4-year-old has requested a dinosaur-shaped birthday cake for next weekend’s festivities. You’re ready and willing to bake one, but who has a dinosaur-shaped cake pan just lying around? You contemplate buying one, but then wonder if it’ll ever get used again or just end up taking space in your kitchen cabinets, gathering dust. How long will this specific fixation last?
Good news for the Pacific Grove Public Library card-holding parent or guardian in this particular predicament – PGPL has a dino-shaped cake pan awaiting checkout in the library’s new kitchen tools collection.
The collection officially launched at the beginning of March, with a display rack at the front of the light-filled library that’s conveniently situated next to a shelf of cookbooks. It’s got specialty cake pans, yes (alphabet-shaped, butterfly-shaped, tractor-shaped… ), but also a range of other novelty items like a Moroccan tagine, a tortilla press, a Madeleine cake pan and a pineapple peeler and corer – 37 tools in total.
“It came up as an idea late last year when we were talking about ideas to increase the number of teens that were coming in,” Library Director Diana Godwin says.
In the modern era, when so much of the information we once relied on libraries for is available online, libraries have had to become more creative in thinking about what they offer – expanding from books and periodicals to things like musical instruments, toys and science kits. Berkeley Public Library, as one example, has a garden tool lending library; Pacific Grove maintains a collection of artwork (framed prints) that can be checked out for up to three months at a time.
“The idea of a library of things has certainly gone on for some time,” Godwin says. The kitchen tools library is just another experiment in that vein, one the Pacific Grove library hopes will resonate with its patrons.
Staff came up with a list of items they thought people would be interested in, and the library bought a bunch of tools. “We were thinking about providing items that people were curious about, but would want to try out first,” Godwin says, naming trendy kitchen items like the air fryer, instant pot and sous vide.
Other tools that are only used sporadically in the kitchen – a dehydrator or an ice cream maker or a set of canning tools – also seemed like good buys. (Before you go marching down to the library with a little-used kitchen tool of your own to add to the collection, hold your horses – the kitchen tools library is not taking donations at this time, but may reconsider in the future if the initiative is successful.)
For the first couple of months, checkout was only available to staff and volunteers – beta testers to see how the whole system would work. And they did learn some helpful lessons in that process. The cotton candy maker, for example, just didn’t work out. They also decided to include a supplementary agreement that people must sign (in addition to the standard-issue library card agreement) to check out an electrical appliance.
Once those details were ironed out, library staff pulled the rack to the front of the library and waited. “When we first pulled it out I thought, ‘Well, let’s see what happens,’” Godwin says. “And within a week or two, there was nothing left.”
That is, the tools proved popular and were being checked out – library users can check out an item for up to two weeks at a time. Items must be returned washed and clean. One family told Godwin they’ve checked out four different items so far, and the library has also heard from older patrons who are using items from the collection to bond with their grandchildren over, let’s say, homemade pasta (the library has both a pasta machine and a ravioli maker available for checkout).
Technical Services Librarian Julie Weirick says the tortilla press is the most in-demand tool so far, but it’s early days. Library staff members are curious to see what remains popular in the long term.
“It’s a new [collection],” Godwin says. “We want to see how it goes.”
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