Popularity Increases for Toy Lending Throughout Ohio Library Systems

Several Ohio public libraries are implementing toy lending, a program allowing families who hold library cards to check out books and also developmental toys and educational materials.

“Toys can be expensive, and for families who are financially strapped, it fulfills a need in that respect. And having them in the library, it brings people in as part of the community. The more people who come into the library, the better it is for the library,” program manager for Ohio State University Assistive Technology of Ohio Gaye Spetka told The Ohio Star.

Spetka noted that the organization started its toy lending program with only 2 libraries, one in Urbana and one in Marietta over 25 years ago. Once implemented, the toy lending program gained momentum and jumped to over 30 libraries participating. Between these 30 libraries and libraries implementing programs on their own, the last few years has seen the number of libraries toy lending more than double to 74 across state.

“The libraries are very excited about it,” Spetka said. “We lit the spark and the libraries took off with it.”

Perry County District Library Director Melissa Marolt told The Ohio Star that libraries participating in toy lending had made the process of selecting and checking out toys and educational materials similar to that of checking out a book. Utilizing toy lending gives parents a chance to see how their child reacts to the toys and if they are age-appropriate before considering whether to make a purchase.

“For some families, it’s a try-it-before-you-buy-it type of thing. They are able to come in and try things before they commit to purchasing them. Financial stability is a factor. They can borrow the toys and utilize them at home. I think this is a true benefit. It has had a positive impact on families,” Marolt said.

Most libraries have similar processes for checking out toys as checking out books. Individuals choose a toy from a selection card ring and use their library card to check the item out. Patrons can also place a request on a toy if it is out, and the library will contact them when it’s available for pickup. Perry County toys can be borrowed for seven days, and people can renew them if no other requests have been placed on the item.

Each library has a different catalog of available toys and educational materials, but some catalogs include bicycles, puzzles, stuffed animals, Lego sets, tablets, building blocks, board games, binoculars, balls, card games, and sewing machines.

“Our customers really love it,” Becky Schaade, director of the Fairfield County District Library, said. “It’s been overwhelmingly positive. People are really excited to see new services and things they never thought of the library lending. Our customers absolutely love it and see its benefits. I think it’s a win-win for everyone. This affords people opportunities and I think that’s fabulous.”

Ohio State University Assistive Technology of Ohio has partnered with local county, district, public, and local libraries to help establish programming which allows Ohio children to access these types of toys and resources. Spetka said Assistive Technology of Ohio is funded by the Health and Human Services program by the federal government. A percentage of the funding the organization receives goes to providing libraries with toys such as these.

If a library is interested in receiving a grant to implement toys in its district, it can contact 614-292-2390 or email [email protected]

Visit the USA Toy Library Association online at https://www.usatla.org/toy-library-locations to find a toy lending library nearby.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Child Playing with Toys” by cottonbro.



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