San Mateo County libraries offer Book-A-Bike program, allows people to check-out bikes

BELMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- First, it was the Berkeley Library that announced it will be renting out full kitchen appliances for free. Now the San Mateo County Library is doing the same, but with bicycles.

The Book-A-Bike program started Tuesday at the Belmont branch.

They have a fleet of bicycles available for checkout on a first-come, first-served basis for anyone 18 and older with a valid library card. Other accessories include a helmet with a GoPro mount, a basket, bike light, bike lock, and first-aid kit.

Bikes will be loaned out and due back the same day. They must be returned 30 minutes before the library closes.

Library patrons are finding a lot more than books available. They can check out things like a laptop, a WiFi hotspot, or even a ukulele.

Twice a year, the library seeks pitches from the staff for new things to lend out. Seeds may be the most unusual item.

"Community members harvest the seeds from their gardens. They bring them into the library," explained Belmont Library manager Kathleen Beasley. "They take out other seeds that other people have harvested, and there's a continual exchange going on."

The library is focused on attracting 20 to 30 somethings before they have kids and the library board is willing to free up to $5,000 in funds to do so.

"We want to be thinking far outside the box about what the library can do for our communities in the 21st century," said library board chair Charles Stone.

The bicycles are designed for hard use. The tires are solid so they won't go flat. The chains are carbon, not metal.

The staff came up with the idea through the libraries' Pitch-It contest, where staff pitch new service ideas. It believes it's one of only a handful of libraries in the entire U.S. to do this.

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