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Growing Toy Lending Library Helps Kids do the Same

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DECORAH, Iowa — Organizers at Toys Go ‘Round believe that playing is learning.

Toys Go ‘Round is one of a handful of toy lending libraries in the state. One-thousand toys fill the basement of the Decorah Public Library.

The toy lending library started 22 years ago as a place for day care providers to borrow toys. Co-founder Kathy Barloon said back then, there were only about 50 toys in stock.

“Then we decided this would be a good community toy lending library, and so we decided to open it up to the community,” Barloon said.

For $45, families can check out as many toys as they want for three weeks. Grandparents who don’t want clutter around their house all the time, can buy a $35 membership for when the grandkids come over to play.

Barloon said she has seen Toys Go ‘Round help families who may otherwise not be able to buy certain toys for their children.

“We actually did a campaign so we could get Brio toys for the kids to play with,” Barloon said. “And one of the fathers that made a donation wrote on his note with his check, was ‘Brio toys, when I was a kid, only the rich kids had those, and now everybody in the community can play with them.’”

Money from the United Way of Winneshiek County helps with some of the costs of the toy lending library. A partnership with the public library gave Toys Go ‘Round the space it needed to grow.

“It’s a perfect way of partnering so that we can bring young families in to be able to not only get the toys that they need, but also, once they come in, they come up and use our library. They go to story time or vice versa,” library director Lorraine Borrowski said.

Toys Go ‘Round is not just teaching children. Organizers have held online workshops with other libraries to teach them how to start a toy lending library of their own.

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