My older sister and I have a children's book lending library. It started like this:
When I was a little girl, just growing out of my picture books, I gave them to my sister's toddler aged daughters. (Obviously my older sister is considerably older than me.) When they outgrew them, they were passed along to my sister's newest addition, another daughter. About that time, I decided I was finished with my "tween"/teen books, and passed them along to the now much older twins. My sister's baby daughter just turned ten, and has decided that she's done with the "baby" books, so she has just inherited the "tween"/teen books from her older sisters, and I just got the picture books back for my little ones.
It was so exciting to get home with the totes and boxes of books books the other night, and remember reading them myself, over twenty years ago.
When my kids outgrow them one of these days, they'll inherit the big kid books from their cousin, and I'll pass the picture books along to my nieces, who by then will have little ones of their own.
This system has several benefits, as I see it.
It allows our kids to have access to a huge number of age appropriate books.
The system also eliminates the issue of storing things that aren't in use for both of us.
Finally, it's really neat to crack open some of the books and read the inscriptions. Some of them go back over 35 years ago, to my sisters' childhoods. The books have become a part of our family heritage.
It's true that a few books don't make it. Overzealous kids sometimes tear books up, or spill things on them. That's sort of the price of the system. Most of the books transition from child to child just fine, only a little worse for wear.
There are a few things to keep in mind before setting up a lending library:
Make sure the other participants won't decide at some point to throw the items in question in the garage sale or charity pile.
Make sure that everyone is in agreement about when and under what circumstances items will be passed along to another family.
Make sure that all parties agree to make reasonable efforts to keep the kids from destroying things. (The key here is reasonable. Items that have been through many children or families won't be pristine, but efforts should be made to prevent the kids from coloring in all the books, or filling them with millions of stickers.)
Having said all that, is there anyone you could set up a lending library with? Sisters? Cousins? Friends?
What could you lend? Books? Toys? Maternity clothes? Baby nursery items? Boardgames?
Think about it. In this age of financial uncertainty, this is a good way to provide for your family, save some cash, and build a sense of community. It works for me.
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