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Mesa's public libraries offering books, DVDs - and croquet sets

MESA, Ariz. -- When going to the library, Mesa residents can check out a classic book such as "Pride and Prejudice" or a DVD such as "Star Wars." They also can check out a croquet set.

Offering sports equipment - and soon, donated cake pans - at the Mesa Public Library's four branches is a way to show residents that the facilities are about more than just books, said Sandy Rizzo, a librarian at the Red Mountain Branch.

"We do want to kind of break through that perception because really the library is about your life," she said.

Rizzo said the project started with an anonymous donation of more than 100 cake pans.

"We've brainstormed a whole number of different types of things, but we limited it in a pilot project to a few particular items to see how it goes and you know, have fun with it," she said.

A Play in the Park Kit available for one-week checkout includes a Frisbee, soccer ball, basketball, football, wiffle ball set and jump rope. Those on bikes can check out locks during their visits.

Melissa Samora, public library division chair for the Arizona Library Association, said that the so-called "stuff-brary" has been used elsewhere.

"A Maine library that offers fishing poles, dolls, ukuleles and cake pans," she said. "There have been libraries that have offered art for people who want to check out art and display it for a little while."

Holly Henley, director of library development for the Arizona State Library, said she can see the concept catching on elsewhere in the state.

"Sometimes people just don't realize all the wonderful things that libraries have and are doing and how well things are changing," Henley said. "We're not just about books anymore."

A.J. Fimbres, who moved to Mesa recently from San Francisco, said the innovation is a great way to get people involved with the library while getting exercise.

"It seems like they are putting in that extra effort to show that they care about the community and want more activity involved in the city," he said.

Rizzo said libraries have always been about borrowing and returning.

"We've had books, we've had movies," she said. "It was just kind of the next step of what if we could loan out items people could use and enjoy."

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