Libraries lend books. This we know for certain. However, many libraries lend much more. The mission of public libraries is to cater to the population in the community that they serve. Some libraries have taken that mission a giant step forward by lending items that are not generally within the typical library purview.
Some libraries have large collections of unusual items. Cake pans, cameras, video recorders, e-readers, tablets, even telescopes have made their way into library collections. For the patrons, this is a very unique and fun experience. Perhaps a way to try before you buy or, in the case of cake pans -- borrow for a one-time use. However, for the library, unusual items can pose risks that can make loaning unusual items more of a headache than its worth.
Theft at libraries is not a new phenomenon. Libraries have struggled for years with patrons who visit the library and abscond with a variety of items including CDs, DVDs, magazines, newspapers and of course books. In addition to outright theft, some patrons lose items or never return them prompting some libraries to resort to legal action including sending the police to retrieve stolen goods.
Imagine then, the library that loans an item that retails for much more than the average twenty-five or fifty dollar book or audiovisual item. How do they guarantee their return? In the case of electronics, many libraries take a deposit via credit or debit card for the replacement cost of the item that is returned when the item is returned safely to them. Others require a non-refundable deposit and loss of library privileges if the item is not returned.
Clearly, there is risk involved anytime a library loans anything to anyone. However, most patrons to take care of the items they borrow. Libraries need to establish clear guidelines and expectations for the loan periods, monetary deposits, and procedure for replacements should the item be damaged. Additional agreements may need to be signed and credit card information obtained in the case of items that exceed several hundred dollars.
For these and many other reasons, most libraries do not loan anything but the standard library materials. For those communities that do, it would be an interesting study to know what their stats are and the ratio of losses to equipment.
Does your library loan any unusual items? Come on over to the forum and let us know if they do and how it is handled.