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Try Before You Buy: Exploring Hobbies at the Library

board games on a shelf

Having a hobby is a great way to reduce stress, be creative and meet new people. It is a way to accomplish goals and endeavors unrelated to our careers. As children, our schedules revolved around hobbies: playing sports after school, catching bugs on the weekend, and making crafts with friends. Adulthood leaves less time for leisure activities, therefore it can be difficult to find a hobby that fits into our routines – and budget. However, studies show that having a hobby contributes to long-term physical and mental health benefits.

Your Library is a great resource to help you hone in on a new favorite hobby or resurrect a favorite childhood pastime. By utilizing books, digital resources, The Forge, and The Library of Things, you can explore potential hobbies in a short amount of time and without a costly financial investment.

It’s tempting to purchase all of the top-of-the-line gear and colorful craft supplies after seeing a fun project on Pinterest, but you run the risk of discovering it’s not the right fit for you and the supplies could end up in a dusty box in the basement. For example, instead of investing in a Cricut machine (which retails for $199 at craft stores) to make greeting cards and vinyl decals, you can use the one in The Forge for a nominal cost. The makerspace is free for anyone to use and supplies for your first project are always free. Additional projects have a suggested donation to cover supplies that ranges from $0.10 to $2.00 depending on the material. Another example is our birdwatching kit which includes two sets of binoculars (one for children, one for adults) and birdwatching guidebooks.  Purchasing these materials on your own can cost upwards of $200. That’s quite a gamble to purchase if you’re “trying on” a hobby. The library can be a great way to “try before you buy” and narrow down which items you will see yourself using time and time again.

Another reason the library is great for finding a new hobby is that it is a trusted source. Have you ever found a recipe online only to discover, once it’s out of the oven that the blogger accidentally left out a critical step or key ingredient? Cookbooks go through a more rigorous review process meaning their recipes won’t end up with disastrous results like the ones featured in this Good Housekeeping article. Another thing to keep in mind is magazines and blogs are oftentimes partnering with companies to push select products. At the library, there are no ulterior motives. It does not matter to us which brands you use – so long as you are having fun! Below are ways to utilize the library’s resources to help you “try on” a hobby that piques your interest.

The Forge

Create, invent, and learn in The Forge, our space designed for hands-on creativity. Spend some time making jewelry, working on a sewing project, or making something cool with our 3D printer. Or just stop in for a few minutes to color a picture or play with some Legos. The Forge is here for you to use and to make your own. Our newest staff member, Mara, maintains the makerspace by upkeeping supplies, hosting events, and scheduling equipment use. She can help you find the right gear and gadgetry to make your project come to life!

Library of Things

The Library of Things is a collection of physical items available for checkout. Stop by the second floor to browse the collection. It includes tools, board games, video games, yard games, electronics, sensory bags, knitting and crocheting materials, and more!

Book Club Kits

Facilitating a book club with your friends is now easier than ever when you check out a book club kit – and our options to choose from keep growing! Each kit comes in a blue zippered bag and contains multiple copies of popular titles, along with a laminated sheet of discussion questions. Book club kits have an extended loan period of six weeks and can be renewed up to three times if there are no other requests for them.

Gale Courses

The Library offers a wide range of interactive, instructor-led courses that you can take online through Gale Courses. As a library cardholder, you can take these courses at no cost! Topics include accounting and finance, business, computer applications, college readiness, healthcare, law, education, writing, and more. Courses are six weeks long, start every month, and are taught by college instructors and other professionals to ensure a high-quality educational experience for patrons of all ages.

Puzzle Exchange

Most people buy a puzzle, put it together once, and then it sits there taking up space. Now available in the Library Lobby is a Free Jigsaw Puzzle Exchange.  The exchange does not require a library card, just take a puzzle and bring it back when you are done or donate a used puzzle of your own. We accept puzzles of all levels, even children’s puzzles. Please secure the puzzle pieces in a zippy bag inside the box.  If you find a puzzle has a missing piece, don’t bring it back.  Throw it away or use the pieces in a craft project.

Local Travel Guides

Scope out your next big bike ride, camping trip, or canoe trip with our selection of Wisconsin travel guides. Some examples include Backroads & Byways of Wisconsin, Paddling Wisconsin, Best Lake Hikes Wisconsin, and Waterfalls of Wisconsin: The Wild Waters of Intrigue. Browse our online catalog for books or ask for a recommendation at the second-floor reference desk.

Auto Repair Source

If tinkering in the garage sounds fun to you then Auto Repair Source (library card required) is a great resource! It is a digital database containing up-to-date service and repair information for thousands of domestic and imported vehicles. Access is available at home using your library card.

Consumer Reports

If you want to make a smart purchase, either for your hobby or for your home, Consumer Reports (library card required) provides reviews and ratings for all sorts of items ranging from fitness gear, snowblowers, and washing machines. Access is available at home using your library card.