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Surprising Things and Great Local Reads Available at Alberta Libraries

By Jessie Bach


Your local library has always been an amazing place to go for all things books and reading, but did you know that many libraries also loan out all sorts of “stuff”? The Library of Things movement is growing in public libraries around the world, and Alberta libraries are no exception. Patrons now have access to a wide variety of non-book stuff at their local library, like garden tools, board games, fitness gear, arts-&-crafts supplies, gaming consoles, and so much more. Just like with books, borrowing stuff from your library is a great way to reduce waste, save money, and try-before-you-buy! Below is a selection of cool stuff that can be borrowed from public libraries in Alberta, accompanied by some recommended reading because, of course, books will always be at the heart of library service.

Please note: Local library membership may be required to borrow these items, and they may or may not be available for interlibrary loan. To borrow the books featured here, visit your local library in person or online.

Photo of a campsiteCamping Gear

Summer is almost here, and you know what that means – camping season! As we enter another season of limited travel and gathering restrictions, many people may be thinking about trying camping for the first time. Members of the Pincher Creek Municipal Library have the opportunity to borrow Classic Camping Kits that contain a tent, foam sleeping mats, a camp stove, and a free voucher for a spot at one of two of Alberta Parks’ first come, first serve campsites. All you need to bring is food, a sleeping bag, and some firewood! 

Plan your trip with 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta: The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places by Leigh McAdam and Debbie Olsen.

125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta: The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places

Leigh McAdam (CA), Debbie Olsen (CA)

Published: Apr 24, 2018 by Firefly Books
ISBN: 9780228100164

Photo taken with night-vision cameraGhost Hunting Equipment 

Can’t get enough of Paranormal State or Ghost Hunters? Is your house full of spooky things-that-go-bump-in-the-night? The Cochrane Public Library has everything you need to mount your own paranormal investigation with their Ghost Hunting Kit. This kit includes a video recorder, an audio recorder, an EMF reader, a video microphone, and a journal to document your findings. To borrow this kit, you’ll need a valid Cochrane Public Library membership and nerves of steel. 

If going out on a real live ghost hunting adventure is just a little too creepy for you, you can always check out Eerie Edmonton by Alberta author Rhonda Parrish.

Eerie Edmonton

Rhonda Parrish (CA)

Published: Jan 04, 2020 by Dundurn Press
ISBN: 9781459744493

Photo of baking stand mixerBaking Stand Mixer and Attachments

Many people have taken up baking in the past year – remember how hard it was to find flour, butter, and icing sugar in the grocery stores last spring? If your mixing spoon arm is getting a little tired after all of those loaves of sourdough, you can borrow a KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer complete with the grinding, slicing, and shredding attachments from the High River Library. While you’re there, check out the rest of their amazing Gadgets to Go collection!

Borrow the mixer and try your hand at Mrs. Bognatov’s honey cake, which she serves alongside a helping of Russian literature to Henry Jett in the novel The Afterlife of Birds by Elizabeth Philips (Freehand Books 2015).

The Afterlife of Birds

Elizabeth Philips (CA)

Published: Sep 15, 2015 by Freehand Books
ISBN: 9781554812653

Photo of people snowshoeingSnowshoes

Alberta is a place with six months of winter each year – who am I kidding, Albertans are lucky if we ONLY see six months of winter! Snow sports are a popular way to stay active and get out and about during those cold months. Equipment for these activities can be specialized and expensive, but the Okotoks Public Library has your back! Patrons of this library can borrow a pair of snowshoes with poles for up to a full week of winter fun. They have sizes for the whole family!

Spring may be upon us now, but you can start planning next winter’s snowshoeing excursions with Andrew Nugara’s book Popular Snowshoe Trails of the Canadian Rockies (Rocky Mountain Books 2021).

Popular Snowshoe Trails of the Canadian Rockies

Andrew Nugara (CA)

Published: May 25, 2021 by RMB | Rocky Mountain Books
ISBN: 9781771604352

Aerial photo of Banff townsiteMuseum Passes

At the Banff Public Library, you can borrow a Family Day Pass to the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. Anyone with a valid library card from an Alberta library can drop by the Banff Public Library’s Information/Circulation desk and pick up this free museum pass, good for admission of two adults and up to two children.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Whyte Museum is currently closed to visitors. Until you can visit again, read about the founders of the Whyte Museum in Artistry Revealed: Peter, Catharine Robb Whyte and Their Contemporaries by Lisa Christensen, Monique Westra, and Anne Ewan (Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies 2018).

Book cover image for Artistry RevealedArtistry Revealed / L’art devoile: Peter Whyte, Catharine Robb Whyte and Their Contemporaries

by Lisa Christensen, Monique Westra, Anne Ewan

Published: 2018 by the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
ISBN: 9780920608623

Photo of sewing machineSewing Machine

Braving the great outdoors isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you are looking for a somewhat cozier hobby, quilting could be just the thing! As part of their extensive Library of Things, you can borrow a Singer Sewing Machine from the Grande Prairie Public Library. It comes with an accessory kit that includes zipper and buttonhole feet, a darning plate, a seam ripper, needles, and bobbins.

Later this summer, you’ll be able to learn more about Alberta quiltmaking history with the forthcoming book Alberta Quiltmakers and their Quilts by Lucie Heins of the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton (Friends of the Royal Alberta Museum 2021). 

Book cover image for Alberta Quiltmakers and their QuiltsAlberta Quiltmakers and their Quilts

by Lucie Heins

Published: 2021 by the Friends of the Royal Alberta Museum


This is just a small sample of the cool stuff you can borrow from libraries in Alberta. Contact your local library to see what surprising items they may have on offer.

Photo of Jessie Bach, author of this articleJessie Bach grew up on a family farm in Southern Alberta, and is a life-long library user and book lover. She has a degree in history from the University of Saskatchewan, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. Jessie has worked in archives, academic libraries, corporate records management, and now public libraries. Her current role is Bibliographic Services Manager at Marigold Library System where she manages the team that does acquisitions, cataloguing and processing of library material for Marigold’s thirty-six member libraries. She currently lives in Calgary with her partner and, in true librarian fashion, four cats. Jessie likes to read (of course), knit, consume way too many true crime podcasts, and lift weights in the gym.