Five Really Crazy Ideas for Public Libraries

I'm at the SLA conference right now and, inspired by all the great sessions, here's a list of some ideas for wild, outside-the-box ideas that public libraries could do to draw more people and attention in their communities.  Some of these are ideas that I came up with, some I found online and some are things I heard about at sessions at the conference:

1. Lend People Instead of Books
The human “books” on offer vary from event to event but always include
a healthy cross-section of stereotypes. Last weekend, the small but
richly diverse list included Police Officer, Vegan, Male Nanny and
Lifelong Activist as well as Person with Mental Health Difficulties and
Young Person Excluded from School.

2. Have a Drive-Thru Window For Returns
…and check-outs?  (“Yes, I'd like a Grisham paperback, a recent copy of Time magazine and a literary western, please.”)

3. Loan Video Games
“In the midst of updating their state-mandated strategic plan last fall,
Oti and her staff decided to offer video games for loan after going to
a regional workshop promoting the idea and surveying younger patrons.
Three weeks ago, the staff put up signs announcing a new 50-title
collection comprising games based on sports and animated movies. Within
two hours, all the titles were checked-out, and most now have long
waiting lists.”

Many libraries are off-setting declining book circulation by buying  more non-traditional library materials such as DVD's, CD's, graphic novels, and comic books. Video games haven't seen the same adoption rate but likely will increasingly be found in libraries as a way to reach a younger, more visually-orientated audience. (There's actually a “games room” at the conference with a Wii and various other games and platforms available – subliminal message for the assembled librarians?)

4. Stay Open 24-7
This is very common in academic libraries, if only around exam time but public libraries haven't tried this as far as I know.  But if grocery stores, coffee shops, drug stores and other retailers can offer round-the-clock hours as a service to their clientele, why not libraries? 

5. Don't Charge Overdue Fines
“It takes an incredible amount of staff time to collect 50 cents, to
monitor it, and send out notices. We weighed the actual costs of
collecting fines against the revenue brought in and decided it was kind
of a wash.”

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