Beyond books at the library

Sean C. Morgan

Want to learn to play an instrument in this new year?

The Sweet Home Public Library is offering just that opportunity with its new ukulele program.

Based on the popularity of one of its programs last year, ukuleles are now available for checkout at the library.

“Libraries are now much more than just checking out books,” said Sweet Home Library Director Rose Peda. “After a program that we had last year, there was a real interest in learning to play the ukulele.”

Two instructors gave a workshop about a year ago on how to play the ukulele, Peda said, and people were able to see how easy to learn and play it is.

“We had a really good turnout,” she said. After that, people kept asking her when the library was going to get some ukuleles.

“I started looking into what it would cost and connected to a music store out of Corvallis,” Peda said. The shop owner seemed excited by the idea and made the ukuleles affordable.

The library has purchased 10 soprano ukuleles and two concert ukuleles, she said. It used $500 each in cash donated by the Friends of the Library and the Ford Family Foundation. Soprano ukuleles are the standard-sized instruments, while the concert models, also known as “super sopranos” or “alto” instruments, are slightly larger.

The instruments are available for checkout, Peda said, or people can play them in the library.

Sweet Home has a group of people who know how to play them, Peda said, and they’ll begin starting monthly jam sessions soon.

While it may seem unusual, modern libraries are lending a variety of different things, Peda said. Some lend cooking supplies, like pans and mixers. Others offer musical instruments, and still others lend iPads, other electronics, gaming systems, exercise equipment, sewing equipment, hobby supplies, costumes, gardening tools, animal skeletons and art pieces.

“There are some libraries that do seeds,” Peda said. “A lot of it – libraries respond to what communities need.”

In this case, the closest places to access music instruments are in Albany and Corvallis, Peda said.

The library’s main business – books and audiovisual materials – continues to thrive, Peda said. It still checks out similar numbers of such items as it has for years.

But it’s continuing to evolve as well.

Ukuleles aren’t the first unusual item for Sweet Home, she said. Sweet Home patrons also can check out electricity usage meters.

Those are plugged in between a socket and an electrical device to measure the device’s use of electricity, Peda said. The library has been lending those out for two to three years.

“This is kind of a further extension of that,” Peda said. She would like to see more musical instruments available in the future.

Coming up this year, Peda and the library staff are planning Tuesday events for children and their families once a month on Tuesday evenings and adult programming once a month.

Peda would like to continue partnering with the Boys and Girls Club, making the programming available to the club’s young members, she said. “We’re trying to just bring the library back out into the community.”

To that end, she is hoping to bring the bookmobile back to Sweet Home, possibly using it to make the Summer Reading Program more mobile, using a performer at various stops and providing free books children can just take.

For more information about the ukuleles or upcoming program, call the Sweet Home Public Library at (541) 367-5007.