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From pickle ball sets to kayaks; libraries are loaning out free access to fun

The Connecticut River.
Nancy Eve Cohen
The Connecticut River.

It's not uncommon for public libraries in western Massachusetts to loan out things other than books, such as DVDs and museum passes, but the library in Sunderland, which is just a short walk to the Connecticut River, just started loaning out much bigger things.

Now, people with a CW Mars library card can sign out a single or tandem kayak for up to three day as long as they launch the boat in Sunderland and sign a liability form. Carts to move the kayaks, a place to lock them up, paddles and life vests are all provided.

Library Director Katherine Umstot said the idea is to expand what it means for a library to give people access to information.

"Information also includes the ability to to try new things and to experience things you may not be able to afford otherwise," she said.

Sunderland also loans out hotspot devices that give free access to the internet and binoculars. The Pittsfield library loans out a sewing machine, a drill, a metal detector and a pickleball set. Holyoke patrons can sign out kids' backpacks filled with games and puzzles.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.

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