Cuyahoga Libraries See Toy-Lending Boom



Slow news day at Scene
  • Slow news day at Scene

Crappy-economy factoid No. 4,325: We’re so broke, we’re renting our toys.

For years, the Cuyahoga County Public Library system has operated a toy chest for folks hoping to test-drive that Dora tea set before investing in one. Over the last two years, the number of loaned toys rose by 50 percent — a sign that either a well-intended program is growing in popularity or Cuyahoga’s citizenry is growing in desperation. Maybe both.

And who is using the system? Everybody.

“Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and anyone who has children visiting them,” says Sue Kirschner, the library’s youth literacy and outreach supervisor and chief toykeeper. “We are finding it’s an economic issue. Everyone in general is trying toys out before they buy.”

Toys designed for special-needs children are especially popular, prompting the library to expand its offerings. “Families cannot afford these toys — which are more expensive — and no other child can play with some of these toys and get something out of it,” Kirschner says.

Cash-strapped early childhood teachers charged with outfitting their own classrooms also frequent the toy library. “Our educational toys are consistently moving from our shelves,” says Kirschner, adding that the frequent rotation is a benefit when faced with a roomful of toddler attention spans.

You can request toys online, then pick them up at the local branch nearest you; toys can also be checked out directly at the Brooklyn branch. On the horizon, says Kirschner, are self-serve toys at additional county library branches.

The most popular library toys? There’s usually a waiting list for the car park and roll around tower. In summer, the play barbecue grill is king.

As for Scene staff favorites? The giant checkers set and Twister. Definitely Twister.

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