From toys to tech: Library of Things offers creative opportunities

Herrick District Library has a history of loaning unusual items — from framed art and Polaroid cameras in years past to the e-book readers, Launchpad learning tablets, and wireless hotspots now available. Most recently, HDL’s Library of Things began loaning out technology, games, toys, and musical instruments.

Launched in December 2019 and put on pause as COVID-19 hit West Michigan, the Library of Things now offers a variety of items for checkout.

“Each item in the Library of Things, from the bocce ball kit to the metal detector to the thermal leak detector to the ukuleles, all directly support HDL’s mission: ‘Empowering our community to connect, discover, and create,’” Groundworks Coordinator Dan Zuberbier says. 

The Library of Things promotes hands-on learning with items such as the Sphero SPRK+ learning robot and musical instruments; creativity and creating with graphic design tablets and GoPro action camera kits; and the discovery of new things by removing financial barriers, so patrons can try telescopes, inspection cameras, portable solar power kits, and other items.

Creating connections

Public libraries across the United States have a long history of providing access to resources patrons might not normally have contact with, especially when it comes to new and emerging technologies where financial barriers can limit equitable access. 

“In the end, we hope HDL patrons will share their ‘Thing’ experience with others in the community and create connections with others who share their interests,” Zuberbier says. 

He offers an example of a patron who wants to view an upcoming meteor shower without paying $100 or more for an entry-level telescope or who wants to allow their child to try it out without paying for a gadget they may end up using only once or twice.

The best-case scenario, he says, is the patron discovers a new passion. In the worst case, they return the telescope and move on to a new interest without experiencing buyer’s remorse.

The Library of Things is ideal for anyone who is looking to discover something new or who needs support in their creative endeavors and DIY projects, Zuberbier says. 

Home Technology Showcase

HDL will host the Library of Things Home Technology Showcase, 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7, in the auditorium on the lower level of the Main Library’s, 300 S. River Ave. Patrons will be able to test many of the ‘Things’ in the collection that can be used for indoor home improvement projects, including the electromagnetic field monitor, thermal leak detector, air-quality monitor, inspection camera, home energy monitoring kit, and laser measurer. There will also be a sneak peek at new objects just added to the collection.

There will be a repeat program, 5:30-7 p.m. Jan. 18, in the community room at the North Branch. Masks are required regardless of vaccination status for all in-person indoor library events.

HDL staff are actively seeking out ideas of things to add to the collection. What toys, tools, or games would support creativity or bring people together in a new, fun way? What new and emerging technologies would patrons like to try before they buy or just understand better? Patrons may offer suggestions by emailing 

For details, visit or call 616-355-3100.

The Things:

Air-quality monitor — Check air quality indoors and outside

Bocce ball set — Play the Italian lawn bowling game

Digital microscope — View nature, stamps, coins, and fine details of other small items

Disc golf set — Play the yard game disc golf with discs and hole

EMF meter — Detect electromagnetic fields and extremely low frequency

Gimbal — Stabilizes phone camera on an axis for recording smooth video while in motion

GoPro camera kit — For action video and photography; includes a head strap, hat clip, and handle

Graphics tablet — For digital drawing, painting, and photo editing; connects to a PC or Mac via a USB cable or Bluetooth connection

Graphing calculator — For plotting graphs, solving simultaneous equations, and using variables

Handheld GPS — Plan a route, record a route, or get coordinates on a map for walking, hiking, or backpacking

Laser measurer — Measure distances up to 165 feet with accuracy

Light-therapy lamp — Offers light therapy to counter seasonal affective disorder without harmful UV rays

Photo lightbox — Perfect lighting for photographing small objects

Portable DVD player — Watch DVDs on the go with the built-in screen or hook up to a TV

Ribbon-cutting kit — Giant scissors and a red carpet; patron provides ribbon for cutting

Solar kit — Charge AA or AAA batteries or a device with the solar panel; includes a rechargeable lantern and flashlight

Soprano ukulele — Ukulele ideal for players of any skill or experience level 

Sphero Sprk+ Robot — Educational robot; program it using a mobile device

Telescopes — Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector and Astroscan telescopes to view cosmic phenomenon 

Thermal leak detector — Increase home insulation efficiency by finding leaks

Wildlife viewing kit — Wildlife identification guides and binoculars


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.