From COVID-19 tests to art to guitars, Greater Columbus libraries offer a lot more than books
There's a lot more than literature, movies and music available from public libraries these days.
Besides books, DVDs and magazines, libraries are a virtual department store of unconventional offerings.
And due to the coronavirus pandemic, almost all of Ohio's 251 public library systems now offer at-home COVID-19 tests.
With the resurgence of the delta variant, "there has been renewed interest in testing for COVID-19,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a news release. “These tests – and Ohio’s amazing network of public libraries – make it easier than ever for Ohioans to get tested and to ensure that we are limiting the spread of the delta variant.”
The Abbott BinaxNOW Home Test is packaged with a telehealth session to oversee test administration and result reporting. The at-home tests are painless and quick.
Those who test themselves will first need to create an account using the NAVICA smartphone app or at www.mynavica.abbott. Once created, they administer the test by going to ohio.emed.com.
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An 'emerging trend': Broad library lending
The concept of libraries offering more than novels and movies has been evolving for some time.
"It's been something emerging over the last five years," said Monica Baughman, director of support services for Worthington Libraries. "You might want to try it before you buy it and maybe not purchase it yourself."
That's where the new lending trend comes in.
The library system's "adventure kits" include camping gear, sewing machines and telescopes. Automobile code readers are available to diagnose problems and jump starters for dead batteries. Light-therapy is available for checkout during those long, dark winter days.
And the three-branch system soon will loan picnic blankets to accompany those attending outdoor story times, mostly for its Northwest branch. A full list of its offerings is found here.
Grandview Heights Public Library has 27 nontraditional items available for checkout. Among the more unusual are: guitars and ukuleles for those 18 and older, binoculars, driver-training cones and runestones and tarot cards for divination.
If cultural activities such as the zoo or museums interest you but admission or membership is a deterrent, Columbus Metropolitan Libraries continues its Culture Pass program, which allows patrons to use their library card to get passes to a variety of local institutions.
These include the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Franklin Park Conservatory, National Veterans Memorial and Museum and Ohio History Center.
And if you want a nice piece of art for your home — but not forever — Westerville has hundreds of pieces of visual art that it lends to patrons for 28 days at a time.
Southwest Public Libraries, which serves the Grove City Area, loans out bike cable locks at its Westland Area Library branch. It is planning for other items in the near future.
Education and health items for every age
Southwest and the Delaware County District Library have a trove of assistance for those dealing with dementia or memory loss issues. Delaware loans its Memory Care Collection. Items include: conversation and reminisce cards, dexterity and painting activities and coloring books. Southwest has similar activity boxes that include fidget toys for different levels of memory loss.
And for students, Delaware County's four-branch library system also has STEAM kits with projects for those interested in science, technology, arts, engineering or math.
Upper Arlington Public Library also has resources for kids. Called Discovery Kits, the boxes include books, games and toys and have themes such as telling time, money, and dinosaurs.
The library's "healing kits" have items to help kids and adults work through difficult situations such as Alzheimer’s disease, the death of a loved one and COVID-19, said Christine Minx, library spokesperson.
Computers and WiFi access
And almost all libraries loan WiFi hotspots, devices that use satellite signals to connect up to 10 wireless device to high-speed internet. Most can be checked out for up to 14 days, ample time to complete a school assignment or watch the latest streaming movies. Many also check out Chromebooks or laptops, also for up to two weeks.
So is all this stuff really free?
Well, not really. Everyone who pays property tax levies is paying for it. Columbus's library district mirrors the school district, and property owners pay more than $80 per year for every $100,000 of property value.
Bexley, Delaware, Grandview Heights, Grove City (Southwest Public), Upper Arlington, Westerville and Worthington each have their own levies, as do more than 200 others statewide.
But in Ohio, the state also supports public libraries. And anyone can join any public library anywhere in the state. So if you see something you'd like to try, just become a library cardholder.
Most public libraries have links to these items under the "Services" tab of their websites.