When Director Mary Medjo Me Zengue came to the Addison Public Library in 1996, patrons would check out their books and leave almost immediately.
Now, she said, visitors spend hours there, taking classes, meeting with a group or attending story time with their children. The library has followed a national trend of adding programs and technology classes, creating "makerspaces" -- areas for do-it-yourself projects -- and providing media labs and other digital services.
After analyzing the demographics and needs of its residents, Medjo Me Zengue said, the library also has to cater directly to the community it serves.
The Addison library started offering unique services such as Yoga and Zumba classes in a communitywide initiative to fight obesity. A social worker was hired to direct residents in need to appropriate helping services.
Addison also is among several libraries offering 3-D printers, sewing machines, recording space and equipment for digitizing VHS tapes to DVDs.
"We're still about literacy and lifelong learning," Medjo Me Zengue said. "Our collection and the books we offer will always be central to our mission, but there's so much more available now."
Examples abound of other unique services provided by suburban libraries:
• Arlington Heights Memorial Library offers electronics recycling, iPad rentals, coloring book classes, GoPro rentals and umbrella rentals.
• Wheaton Public Library is creating a business resource center. It also recently jumped on board a popular trend of adding coffee shops and small cafes within library buildings.
• Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich, among others, rents out telescopes.
• Nichols Library in Naperville has a designated space, called NaperLaunch, for business startups.
• Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, located along the Fox River, offers rental binoculars.
• Helen Plum Memorial Library allows families to rent out robotics, science and other sensory activity kits.
• Indian Trails Public Library, located in Wheeling with a temporary site in Buffalo Grove during renovations, will launch a program allowing members to check out mobile Wi-Fi devices that provide internet access for personal devices.
• Several libraries, including the Schaumburg Township District Library, offer test proctoring, tutoring, voter registration, resources for people learning to speak English and delivery services for people who can't physically make it to the library.
• At various other facilities, patrons with library cards can check out baking supplies, fishing poles, gardening tools and musical instruments.