The Washington Post recently published an article titled, “Kayaks, ukuleles, neckties: The weird and useful things you can check out from local libraries” in which it detailed the many ways libraries are opening up to communities by loaning nontraditional materials
While some may find such lending policies unusual, they are nothing short of an extension of what the core of a library is: a public forum for communication. After all, books and texts exists to hold and share ideas and in order to for these ideas and thoughts to exist, they must be borne out of some sense of experience in the world. In order for someone to come along and understand these texts, the reader must also have some sort of experiential knowledge.
In the educational world, it is referred to as prior knowledge, and it is an integral part of a child’s developing reading comprehension. For how can a child read a book about baseball and understand it if they have never heard or seen anything about baseball in their lives?
By adopting such lending policies, libraries are promoting literacy by making available the word of experiences to children and adults which will allow them to engage more deeply and richly with the texts of authors wishing to communicate the ideas and thoughts interwoven between the doing and making in this world.
Furthermore, these lending services can provide experiential opportunities for individuals and families who wouldn’t be able to afford these experiences otherwise. While buying a 3D printer for a future engineer might not be possible, a visit to the local public library is.
So, the next time you hear about your local library lending out casserole dishes or camping gear, see it as an extension of what your library has been doing for years: promoting literacy.