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An illustration of a telescope standing against a dark sky.
An illustration of a telescope standing against a dark sky.
An illustration of a telescope standing against a dark sky.

Published May 3, 2018.

Updated June 11, 2021.

Need a telescope? Borrow at the library.

Books, sure. But would you expect video equipment, upholstery kits, or Discover Passes at the library — all available for checkout?

Many libraries are offering more nontraditional items and programs than ever. That means equipment, tools, classes, and training that you might have paid for in the past — or skipped altogether — are available free of charge.

In other words: Put away your credit card and pull out your library card.

"We have contemporary, vibrant libraries in our region offering current digital, audio, interactive, and streaming resources," says Jane Baker, communication and development director for the Spokane County Library District. "Of course, if it's a book you're looking for, we have the latest titles for all ages."

The county district's "Library of Things" lets people check out a sewing machine, a telescope, or video production equipment. STEM explorer kits are also available that delivery learning plus fun for kids.

"Our product at the library is knowledge, and knowledge comes in many forms," Baker says.

"Google will give you 500 answers; a librarian will give you the right one," Baker says.

A walk in the park.

Everything is offered at no charge for district residents.

For fun day trips in our region, borrow a Check Out Washington Discover Pass from the library. The Check Out Washington backpack includes binoculars, field guides, other interpretive materials, and a special Discover Pass for parking at any Washington State Parks location. Visit Riverside State Park, Palouse Falls, and Gardner Cave at Crawford State Park, to name just a few.

Along with Medicare seminars and history lectures, there are workshops on subjects as varied as outdoor goat yoga and preparing for wildfire season. You can book a free conference room for your next gathering or attend a financial education class offered by STCU.

At two locations, you can get trained on video editing software and borrow sophisticated equipment. And staffers at the Spokane Valley Library will teach you how to use 3D computer software and the 3D printer.

Online resources, human helpers.

Digitally speaking, you'll find real-time tutoring for elementary- to college-age students, along with e-books, audio books, magazines, auto repair guides, legal forms, technology training and subscription-based sites like marketing databases and Consumer Reports.

Two new resources have been added to the digital line-up. The first is Creativebug, which offers daily online classes for creating crafts and artwork and has thousands of projects in a wide range of categories, sharing techniques for dozens of creative hobbies for all skill levels. The second new resource is Udemy, an online, on-demand learning platform. Anyone seeking to learning something new will find a huge variety of online classes from getting started as an entrepreneur to tennis tips from Andrea Agassi.

Overwhelmed? Perhaps one of the most unexpected services rests squarely in the human realm: free consultations with expert librarians on whatever you need to know.

You can "book a librarian" and learn more about library programs at

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