10 unusual things you can check out from Wisconsin’s public libraries

Cool and unusual things you can check out from Wisconsin's public libraries

Photo courtesy of Canva

By Marc

January 29, 2024

Nowadays, local libraries offer WAY more than books. If you haven’t stepped foot in yours lately, you might be surprised to learn just how much you can get with a simple scan of your library card!

American Girl Doll

Cool and unusual things you can check out from Wisconsin's public libraries

Photo courtesy of Monona Public Library via Facebook

At both the Franklin Public Library and Monona Public Library, you can take home one of these dolls that have been beloved for decades, one week at a time. Patrons can choose from one of several American Girl dolls, from Molly to Melody, which is fitting because the dolls originated in and are still created in Middleton, Wisconsin.

Tech Gadgets

Sometimes it’s a good idea to check out new technology before you buy your own, and several libraries in Wisconsin allow you to do just that—literally. You can try a 3D pen for a week from the North Shore Library, or a coding kit from the Oak Creek Public Library. Need to digitize all those old cassettes so you can listen to them in the 21st century? Turn them into MP3s using a converter checked out from the Cudahy Family Library, as well as a few other libraries across the state. Some libraries also offer green screens for those interested in making magic on film.

Crafting Supplies

Cool and unusual things you can check out from Wisconsin's public libraries

Photo courtesy of Mead Library

If you’re feeling crafty, the library is here to help. You can check out everything from sewing machines and weaving looms to knitting needles and the ever-popular Cricut machines at many Wisconsin libraries. Glue guns are available for check-out as well as button-making machines. Check with your local library, because chances are they have the tools necessary to get you started with that new hobby.

Musical Instruments

If you want to try your musical talents on a new instrument before investing in your own, you should check with your library, as well. You can check out an acoustic guitar or a ukulele from the Whitefish Bay Library. The Racine Library has a roll-up, touchpad piano available for check-out, as well as a steel-tongue drum kit. Several Wisconsin libraries will also lend out a record player and keep vinyls in their collection to go with it if you want to bring new sounds into your home, even for just a week.

Party Supplies

Cool and unusual things you can check out from Wisconsin's public libraries

Photo courtesy of Mead Public Library

Planning a party? Put the library on the invite list—or at least grab some items that will make your event a memorable one. The karaoke machine at the Mead Public Library in Sheboygan or a number of other libraries across the state will be an instant hit. You might also consider taking home a bubble machine or a projector and large screen for a backyard movie night.


Thinking about tackling a DIY project in the near future? Let the library help you out. The Racine Public Library allows patrons to check out up to three items from their tool library at any one time. Grab a caulk gun, a stud finder, and a digital tape measure. At the Greenfield and Franklin libraries you can check out a tile cutter, while Whitefish Bay offers a cordless drill and socket-and-wrench set.

Outdoor Gear

Cool and unusual things you can check out from Wisconsin's public libraries

Photo courtesy of Mead Public Library

There’s plenty to explore in Wisconsin’s great outdoors. Your local library might be able to help by lending out the gear you’ll need to make the most of your next adventure. Bird-watching kits are pretty common at many libraries across the state. You can also check out binoculars from the North Shore Library, among others. Several themed backpack exploring kits are available through the Milwaukee Library. And the Racine Public Library has a metal detector for loan. If you’re into stargazing, take home a telescope from the Mead Public Library for a week.

Kitchen Essentials

Bakers should know that several libraries across the state have items available to help mix things up in the kitchen. There are baking tool sets and a variety of cake pans available at the Greenfield and South Milwaukee libraries that are perfect for making a unique birthday cake. You can also check out a canning kit from the North Shore Library to help turn your summer harvest into preserves for winter.

Yard Games

Cool and unusual things you can check out from Wisconsin's public libraries

Photo courtesy of Madison Public Library

Once the weather takes a turn toward spring, you’ll be planning plenty of outdoor adventures and celebrations. Your local library can help keep everyone entertained. At the Madison Public Library you can get your hands on a disc golf kit. Several libraries also allow patrons to check out yard games like giant Jenga, yard dice, and Connect 4, plus popular tailgating games like ladder toss and cornhole. You can even check out a crochet set, bocce ball set, or one of those giant parachutes from elementary school gym class for a bit of nostalgia.

Winter Boredom Busters

There’s plenty of winter left. If you are looking for something to help get you through the long, cold months ahead, you might check out a puzzle and a HappyLight LED therapy lamp, both of which are available at several libraries across the state, or a pilates bar kit, as offered by the Racine Library. You could also get a head start on your summer garden at the seed library at Racine.

We hope this list has shown you that, at the very least, you should remember your local public library is a hub of community activity and a resource for all. If there’s something you are looking for, just ask, as it may already be in the “library of things” available to check out.


  • Marc

    I am the former Web Development and Interactive Technology Manager at the George Eastman Museum of Photography and Film. During my tenure there I designed and built the site and integrated the museum's collection databases, making each of the 650,000 collection items available online. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, I formed a sponsored research partnership and developed advanced versions of my Self-Contained Internet Remote Camera system known as ‘SCIRC’ technology. Focused on alternative power sources and offering customers cameras that work from anywhere within range of a cell tower. I was the New Media Director for Gannett’s Democrat and Chronicle, the flagship outlet that took Gannett from statically produced pages to dynamically integrated content from their newsroom and advertising systems. Oh yeah, and in 1995 I build the first TGIFridays Website!



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