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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.

Need a telescope? Borrow at the library.

Books, sure. But would you expect video equipment, upholstery kits, or museum 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 — is available free of charge.

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

"We need to let go of the old-fashioned picture about libraries and thinking of them as just warehouses for books," says Jane Baker, communication and development director for the Spokane County Library District. "We are anything but."

The county district's "Library of Things" lets people check out tools or a telescope. "Touch-a-Fire Truck Story Times" let preschoolers meet firefighters and tour their engines. Science experiments deliver learning plus fun for kids.

"Our product here is knowledge, and knowledge comes in many forms," Baker says.

"Our product here is knowledge, and knowledge comes in many forms," Baker says.

A day at the museum.

Everything is offered at no charge for district residents. And nearly everything is available for people in Spokane and Liberty Lake who sign up for county library cards.

One of the newest services (and a serious money-saver) is the library district's family museum-pass program. Each of the 11 libraries has a family pass to the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture and another to Mobius Children's Museum and Science Center.

Along with elder law seminars and history lectures, there are workshops on subjects as varied as composting and Photoshop. 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.

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 www.scld.org.



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