Constable: Sugar Grove library offers waffle-maker, microscope, air compressor -- and books
You can, of course, still swing by the local library to pick up a wonderful book. But patrons of the Sugar Grove Public Library have been visiting its Library of Wonderful Things to check out more unusual items, such as a waffle-maker, a selfie stick, mobile Wi-Fi hot spots, a punch bowl, an air compressor, a snow-cone machine, a microscope, a karaoke machine, a Roku streaming TV device, cookie cutters or a ukulele.
"We've gotten hot spots, Roku, the laminator, a Kindle, the binoculars and the telescope," says Char Buerger, who visits the library with her husband, Mike, daughter Isabella, 13, and sons Logan, 11, Vinny, 6, and Gabe, 3. "We're always there getting something different."
Isabelle used the laminator to apply a plastic coating to pieces of a memory game she designed for an early childhood education project in class. With Logan playing summer football, that meant lots of trips in the car, where Buerger used the hot spot to stay connected to the internet.
"My kids, if they start working on homework in the car on the way home from school, they connect to the hot spots," Buerger says.
While some felt the internet would do to libraries what the asteroid did to dinosaurs, libraries are kicking it these days. A new Gallup poll proclaims visiting the library the most common cultural activity engaged in by Americans. Responders said they visit the library an average of 10.5 times a year -- nearly twice as often as people attend movies (5.3 times a year), and more than go to sporting events (4.7 times a year), live theatrical or musical events (4 times a year) or museums or casinos (both 2.5 times annually).
Circulation at the Sugar Grove library is up 40 percent since 2016, says Director Shannon Halikias. Patrons check out an average of 42 items a month from the Library of Wonderful.
"We put a lot of thought into the first wave of items. I think it's part of our mission," Halikias says.
"If you're having a birthday party and looking for entertainment, you can check out a karaoke machine," she adds.
The punch bowl (donated by a resident) and the snow-cone machine might also be a fun addition.
A lot of homework these days is online. "Not every family can afford the internet," Halikias says, noting the mobile hot spots give families free internet for home use or a road trip.
"This is really popular with home-school parents," she says of the microscope. "The air compressor is pretty cool because you wouldn't think a library would have that." A flat tire or other car emergency might be solved with a trip to the library. "I'm actually going to put some jumper cables in there," Halikias says, noting that a couple of patrons have walked out of the library to discover dead batteries this winter.
Some of the items available are designed for "cultural enrichment and education," while others are "quirky and fun," she says. They all are meant to broaden horizons.
"It makes me go wow when I see what kids can do when they have resources and support," Halikias says. Her sons, Lio, 16, and Luke, 14, are avid library-goers. Lio recorded a rap in a studio in a Naperville library, she says, noting she'd love to add that option to the Sugar Grove library so patrons can record music or host podcasts.
The library has applied for a Live and Learn Construction Grant from the state to improve the building, but Halikias says the library also is looking for donations to the Library of Wonderful. Adaptive technology and devices such as wheelchairs or crutches are on the wish list, as are a chocolate fondue fountain, a posthole digger, a sewing machine and fishing rods.
It can be fun to try new things.
"My husband actually tried out the ukulele," Buerger says, opting for her kids' gentle review of his performance. "They all got a kick out of it."