A few months ago I blogged about library service of the future and mentioned unusual lending collections. This morning I read a wonderful New York Times piece by Corey Kilgannon about a really cool example: a circulating American Girl doll at the Ottendorfer branch of the New York Public Library. Someone had donated the doll, the library thought it was too valuable to display, and it was sitting around on a shelf until a creative children’s librarian, Thea Taube, decided to let children borrow her.
Apparently there is no precedent or policy for cataloging or circulating a doll in her library system, so Taube “kept it unofficial,” allowing kids to take the doll home without asking for library cards or identification. That this would happen anywhere in contemporary America, let alone in our largest city, floored me. I can just hear the naysayers insisting the doll would never be seen again.
This unofficial doll-lending has gone on for years, and although the doll’s hair is now matted and her accessories have been lost (due to what Taube says is “a lot of love”) she has always been returned. The article explains she’s been a treat both for kids whose families couldn’t afford an American Girl doll and those whose parents opposed buying the toy on principle.
I can’t say what I love best about this story: the innovative thinking on the part of the librarian, the fact that her nontraditional idea worked so beautifully and for so long, the hand-written note (from a child who took the doll home) that ran with the story, the varied experiences of the children who borrowed her and the ways the doll touched so many lives? I love the whole thing.
Kilgannon writes that Taube feels the doll lending “exemplified the library as a community center” and closes by quoting Taube: “I tell the kids that the library belongs to them.” I am still smiling about this, just thinking of how those kids will feel about libraries for the rest of their lives.
What’s in your library’s storage room that could be a creative lending item?