Borrowing Broadens Beyond Books At The Library Of The Chathams

By Kristina Ailara

Embracing the needs and interests of the community, the Library of the Chathams offers a variety of fun and exciting materials. Its diversified collection includes non-traditional library items that patrons can borrow if they want to try something out before purchasing or if they are simply interested in having a unique hands-on learning experience.
This year, the library’s collection has grown with the addition of Google Cardboards, a Fitbit and a telescope. Last year was the onset of the very popular musical instrument loaner program. Musical instruments include a keyboard, an acoustic guitar, a ukulele, a trumpet and a flute. Patrons can also borrow iPads, an initiative that began in 2013. Additionally, the library offers free museum passes. The museum program began in 2011 and the list of museums can be found on the library’s website, https://www.chathamlibrary.org/faqs/how-can-i-get-free-museum-passes/.
Galina Natenzon, the assistant director of the library, says that the program’s “success, as measured by the number of checkouts, varies.  Usually there is a spike of interest when we acquire a new item, and then it wanes, or goes in peaks and valleys.  Right now, there is a long line waiting to check out our new telescope.  Among the musical instruments, the most popular is the guitar.  Museum passes are perennial favorites.”
These items are available to adult patrons who are in good standing. They can be borrowed by Chatham residents and are also available to patrons of other libraries that are a part of the Morris-Union Federation of Libraries or the Morris Automated Information Network. Items may be reserved online or by phone. Patrons are liable for replacement costs if the items are lost or damaged and they are asked to sign a user agreement when they take out the telescope.
Natenzon calls these items “ephemera.” She explains, “the word ‘ephemera’ (or ‘realia’) is library speak for ‘real-life’ items that we lend, as opposed to books. For example, in the past, libraries used to lend out framed art to decorate your home; slide projectors; even movie projectors.  Many libraries still lend bags to carry your books, and umbrellas when it rains.  Some libraries can lend you tools and even sewing machines!” She adds, “The idea has been around for a long time…as technology changes, so do those interesting items.  For example, after slide and movie projectors fell into obsolescence, libraries started lending out MP3 players.  Then came the turn of eReaders and iPads.”
Friends of the Library provides the funding for most of these interesting items. The non-profit organization is run by Chatham volunteers and donated the funds for the musical instruments, the Google Cardboards and the Fitbit.  The organization also continuously funds the museum pass program.  The telescope was purchased with a donation from a Chatham resident.
Natenzon says, “At this time, there are no concrete plans to acquire new interesting items.  However, we always keep our eyes open for new possibilities.” If anyone is interested in contributing to this program, they should contact Library Director Karen Brodsky at 973-635-0603 ex. 212 or at kbrodsky@chathamlibrary.org. The library is open Mon.-Thurs. 9:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Fri. 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sat 9:30 a.m. -5 p.m.; Sun. 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.

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