We’ve got libraries on our minds. After many months of pandemic-induced closures, the Detroit Public Library is preparing to open 12 of its branches in July. (Three branches will not reopen for the time being, due to protracted maintenance needs and budgetary issues.)  

Still, six neighborhood branches and the Main Library on Woodward Avenue in Midtown are currently open – and they have a lot to offer besides books. Here are a few of DPL’s lesser known collection items and how to use or check them out.

Laptops to go

Launched in November 2020, the DPL’s “Laptop to Go” program offers adult library members 90-day loans of laptops. They’re free to check out, with a $500 replacement fee. When you check out a laptop, you also get a free flash drive – to keep – so you can save your files. The library currently has 170 laptops in its collection. 

People use the laptops for a variety of reasons, according to Circulation Department Manager James Smith. A common use is continuing education, including GED completion and college programs, as well as parents helping kids with school projects.

When the program launched, all the laptops were checked out “immediately,” according to DPL spokesperson Kathryn Dowgiewicz, but wait times are now minimal. 

“The goal is definitely to expand the laptop program since it’s proved really successful,” she added. “It just shows that there’s a need in our community to have access to computers, whether it be at the library or this way at their own home.”

Reserve a laptop by calling 313-481-1400 or going in-person to any library branch. The library will contact you when a laptop is available to arrange pickup. 

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Vinyl records 

historic photo of people listening to records in the detroit library
People listening to records with headphones at tables in the Audiovisual Department of the Detroit Main Library, date unknown. Photo credit: Burton Historical Collection, courtesy of the Detroit Public Library

Back in the day, patrons could hang out at the library and listen to records with the library’s record players and headphones. Now that we can all stream music from our phones – anytime, anywhere – silent library listening parties might seem archaic. But vinyl sales are skyrocketing

DPL has a collection of vinyl records that patrons can check out and listen to at home. (Record player not included.) Borrowing records might be ideal for people newly interested in the format – collecting records gets way pricier than a Spotify subscription. 

“There’s this amazing untapped collection of vintage records that exist” at the library, Dowgiewicz said. “If someone is interested and hasn’t had much experience, here you can come and discover different music you haven’t been exposed to.”

Check out a record in-person at the Main branch. You can explore music recordings in the online catalog here – there’s no easy way to search exclusively for vinyl (often indicated as a “phonodisc”), but you can always call the library or ask a librarian if you’re looking for something specific. 

If you’re more of a DIY music enthusiast, you can also check out sheet music. If you’re more into digital than analog, keep in mind that library card holders can also check out music online via Hoopla – as well as movies, TV shows and audiobooks. (E-books are also available through DPL.)

Seeds – yes, for your garden

Every spring, DPL partners with Gro-Town to set up seed stations at each of its branches. The stations offer free packets of seeds for different vegetables and flowers. The goal, said Dowgiewicz, is “to get seeds into the hands of kids, so they can learn about growing, gardening, planting things and see that it comes up and they have a hand in it.”

Find seed stations at the Main Library as well as neighborhood branches – seed packets were still available as of this week. 

Passes for museums, campgrounds and other sites around the state

This one isn’t technically at the DPL, but your library card gives you access to tons of other cultural and natural destinations in Michigan. Now in its 15th year, the Michigan Activity Pass program gives library card holders the ability to check out passes to more than 400 sites around the state. That might mean the Nokomis Cultural Heritage Center in Okemos, the Longway Planetarium in Flint, Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Paradise or a favorite Detroit institution, from the Carr Center to Belle Isle. Each location offers different quantities of passes and different restrictions. Some are free, while some are only discounted. 

Visit MAP’s site to find included spots near or far, plan a visit for your next vacation or Sunday Funday and check out passes.

3D printing, video games and other services for teens 

At the Main Library, the HYPE Teen Center is open to kids ages 13 to 18 and hosts DPL’s youth programming. But the center is also stocked with unique items – for in-person use, not to check out – that give teens the opportunities to learn new skills, access entertainment and simply hang out. 

That includes a 3D printer, sewing machine, art kits, board games, a PlayStation 4 and other video game consoles. The library is also working to get the center’s recording studios reopened for summer. 

Teens or their parents who are interested in using the HYPE Teen Center are advised to call the Main Library before heading in to confirm what is available and if there are staff members present who can explain the more complicated equipment like the 3D printer. 

The variety on offer at the library “fulfills our mission of being available for everyone to come in and learn and explore,” Dowgiewicz said. “The idea is just providing access.

“The library is more than just books.”