Forest Park residents can check out everything from laptops and speakers to a mini keyboard and synthesizer, at no cost, thanks to the latest pilot program from the Forest Park Public Library. This is the most recent adaptation for a library that continues to evolve to meet the needs of its users.

The 21-item “gadget collection” grew out of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the library, like much of the rest of the world, responded to a more online reality in which access to technology, by especially with things like computers for school-aged children and video connectivity for the elderly, has become a crucial part of everyday life.

So, in July of this year, the library rolled out what it calls its collection of gadgets – a mix of technologies including tablets, laptops, a projection screen, webcams, portable DVD and Blue-Ray players. , a digital camera, a light therapy lamp. , a media hub, a power bank, a bluetooth speaker, a synthesizer, a microphone, an audio recorder and even a boombox – and the response so far has been a resounding boost.

“It’s very popular, for sure,” said Amilcar Perez, the adult services and outreach librarian who manages the collection. “It feels like, ‘oh, I didn’t know it was here. This is incredible. ‘ And I think that illustrates the concept of a library as larger than what is regularly perceived.

Customer Service Manager Claudia Corzine Shows Off The Different Elements Of The Gadget Collection Program On Monday, November 29, 2021, Inside The Forest Park Public Library In Forest Park, Illinois | ALEX ROGALS / Personal photographer

“The library’s mission has expanded dramatically over the past decade, and I think part of what we do is help people access information and resources; really the key word is access, ”said Pilar Shaker, director of the library. “This is just another way to support research, exploration and access so that members of our community can pursue their personal and professional goals. “

“We also learned during the pandemic that we cannot assume what kind of access people have to technology,” she said.

For Perez, who ran many of the library’s technology programs before the pandemic began and still conducts one-on-one technical consultations for those who need help, the gadget collection serves several of the library’s primary goals, including give clients the tools to succeed in today’s world. It could mean anything from giving a job seeker access to a computer who must apply online to providing technology for a student to be successful in the classroom.

But part of the gadget collection is also focused on having fun and making gear available to Forest Parkers who might not otherwise be able to afford the sometimes expensive technology.

“Why would anyone need to buy a gadget if they can check it out in the library and try it out,” Perez said. “Or if they’re going to use it once.”

In one of the more creative examples Perez cited, a group of people decided to find a mobile theater kit that is part of the collection this summer and used the projector, screen, speaker, and tripod to organize a private outdoor screening of the Opening Ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Customer Service Manager Claudia Corzine Shows Off The Different Elements Of The Gadget Collection Program On Monday, November 29, 2021, Inside The Forest Park Public Library In Forest Park, Illinois | ALEX ROGALS / Personal photographer

Initial funding for the gadgets program came from the library’s operating budget and both Perez and Shaker said the program would be reassessed before reaching final form, but Shaker said the program is “not a pilot. in the sense that I think he’s going to stay. “

“I can walk past the shelves and see that they have been two-thirds verified since we started the program,” she said. “I think what we’re looking to learn from this pilot phase is what exactly our community wants to check out from the gadget collection… as we learn and get feedback from people, or see what is going around and what is not. not circulating, we can change those things and customize the collection to suit what is appealing to the community.

The success and potential growth of the gadget collection could also serve to expand the reach of the library, drawing someone into the building who might otherwise not be interested in browsing the hardcover books available there. . And once someone starts exploring the library, Perez and Shaker believe they can open people’s eyes to the range of programs and articles available.

“Any project or program that we do that captures the attention of non-users, especially if it’s a project that brings them into the library, is helpful in that sense,” Shaker said. “Even if they can’t find anything else that appeals to them… that’s why we’re constantly trying to create new programs and have new collections, even if people don’t ask us for these things”.

More information about the library’s gadget collection, including an online catalog, can be viewed online at fppl.org or at the library itself, 7555 Jackson Blvd. in the forest park. The gadget collection is currently only available to Forest Park residents.