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Libraries are truly amazing no matter where you go. This season on Borrowed, we’re going to celebrate that, and bring you stories that challenge your idea of the public library, and of Brooklyn, too. 

Want to read more about the topics brought up in this episode? Check out the following links:

Episode Transcript

Krissa Corbett Cavouras Welcome back to Borrowed: stories that start at the library. I’m Krissa Corbett Cavouras. We’ve been away for a couple of months and there’ve been some changes. Felice Belle, our wonderful co-host in season one, took another incredible job and left the library. We were sad to see her go and we miss her. But Borrowed is back! And we are so excited to introduce my fantastic new co-host, Adwoa Adusei. Hi Adwoa!

Adwoa Adusei Hi!

Krissa Corbett Cavouras So, Adwoa, tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Adwoa Adusei So, I grew up in New York, in the Bronx, shout out. But I’ve been in Brooklyn and with the Brooklyn Public Library for the last four years as a librarian and supervisor. I work at the the Brownsville branch.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras Such a good branch.

Adwoa Adusei It is such a good branch.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras And, why did you become a librarian?

Adwoa Adusei Well, I’ve worked in libraries it seems most of my adult life. But public librarianship has been really impactful because I have a history in social justice and activism, and so every day I go in and I get to help people find their resources and sometimes they don’t even know what they want, but we help them figure it out. 

Krissa Corbett Cavouras I have another question for you. If you could make a library of things that were not books, what would you put in it?

Adwoa Adusei Well, I sew, and I think it’d be really cool to have a library of sewing materials. You know, the scissors, the dress forms. It’d be crazy to use your library card to check out a dress form. 

A teenager sews during one of BPL's Fashion Academy workshops.
(Gregg Richards, Brooklyn Public Library)

Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yeah, and it’s Brooklyn—who has space for a dress form in their apartment? And we should mention that while we don’t have dress forms to borrow, we do have a fairly new and pretty amazing lending library of musical instruments. So, from Central Library’s art and music department, you can check out a guitar, a ukulele, you can even check out drums.

Adwoa Adusei I’ve always wanted to play the guitar, so that could be pretty cool.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yeah. So, Adwoa, I asked about your “library of things” idea because to start our new season of Borrowed, we decided to have a little bit of fun. We called around to library systems across the country… and around the world…  to hear the strange and wonderful things they have on loan.

Dan Beringhele The number one circulating item in the Berkeley Public Library system is a string trimmer, or weed wacker.

Adwoa Adusei Dan Beringhele is the supervising librarian at the Tarea Hall Pittman South branch in Berkeley, California. That branch is the home to one of the nation’s oldest continually-running tool libraries. It’s in its 40th year.

Dan Beringhele We have some larger tools like table saws and cement mixers, and we’ve just started collecting smart phone and tablet repair kits, as well as bike tools.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras You might be surprised that you can check out a book and a hammer from the same place. But Dan says that having tools at the library makes a lot of sense.

Dan Beringhele Libraries are all about getting people the tools they need to get things done.

Adam Broner Somebody did a demographic survey of us and found we most accurately reflect the entire spectrum of Berkeley.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras That last voice is Adam Broner. He’s been working at the tool library for the past 28 years.

Adam Broner Apparently, the courage to try something new is outside of any other demographic. [LAUGH]

Adwoa Adusei And if you’re in the Canadian province of New Brunswick and you want to try something new, you might want to visit Fredericton Public Library.

Julia Stewart My name’s Julia Stewart and I’m the library director at Fredericton Public Library in Fredericton, New Brunswick. So our weather here in New Brunswick is very similar to Maine. So, we have long, cold winters with lots of snow, and getting out and embracing that cold is really part of the culture, the fabric here, for sure. So, snow shoes were sort of a no brainer.

Adwoa Adusei The library has 37 pairs of snow shoes you can borrow.

Julia Stewart And you run on them. I mean we get a ton of snow, right, so it makes walking in the woods much more enjoyable than trying to slug through it with your boots on.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras And if you’re looking for another winter activity—but one that doesn’t require snow at all—maybe stop by the Bolivar County Library in Cleveland, Mississippi to talk to Emily Bell, the library’s director.

Emily Bell I’ve never heard of another library that offers the Santa suits. And, honestly, because this is the first library that I worked at, it never dawned on me that it was a unique collection.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras That’s right… you can get a Santa suit from your local public library in Cleveland, Mississippi. 

Children gather a Santa outside Brooklyn's Central Library in the 1950s.
(Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library)

Adwoa Adusei Okay, Santa suits have got to be pretty unique. I have another one for you. This next library is international, and it’s been going on for nineteen years. And it’s an interesting one because the books actually come to the library voluntarily. 

Ronni Abergel Because they realize they have something to offer and they want to be on our bookshelf.

Adwoa Adusei Founder Ronni Abergel is talking about the human library, an organization that connects people to other people. You just show up at a specific location, at a specific time, and “check out” a person for 30 minutes. You can ask them whatever you want.

Ronni Abergel Borrow the police officer and ask about police brutality or discrimination. Or borrow a Trump supporter and ask them what they’re thinking of. We need to sit down and talk, and start somewhere. And the rules are really simple. They’re like the rules of the public library, except in this library you don’t have to be quiet. In fact, you shouldn’t be very silent … but other than that, we expect you to bring the book back in the same condition, we expect you to bring it back on time, and you cant take it home.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras It’s a pretty fantastic idea, and the human library has partnered with communities across the world. Because we know that books can open our minds … but by asking people to be books, the hope is that a conversation can encourage us to be a little more open-minded about each other. 

Adwoa Adusei And, the human library is coming to Brooklyn. So, soon you’ll be able to check out a person near you.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras Adwoa and I believe that libraries are truly amazing no matter where you go. This season on Borrowed, we’re going to celebrate that, and we’re going to bring you stories that challenge your idea of the public library, and of Brooklyn, too. 

Adwoa Adusei We’ve got stories about trash in New York City, finding home at the library, library gardens, sex education, stories about making books count, and stories about counting everyone in the big census.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras And of course, we’ll bring you Brooklyn stories — we’ll dive into blocks and block parties in Bed-Stuy, the free black communities in Brooklyn before the Civil War, stories from Crown Heights to Flatbush… and so much more.

​​​​​​​Adwoa Adusei I’m Adwoa Adusei.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras And I’m Krissa Corbett Cavouras. You’re listening to Borrowed, season two. 

​​​​​​​Adwoa Adusei You can find us every other Tuesday wherever you get your podcasts.

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