Free to check out from LAPL: Ukelele, power tools, sewing machine

By Zoie Matthew

You can check out a ukelele — with a case, book of chords, and a tuner — for free from 17 LA Public Library branches. Photo by Shutterstock.

The Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) has more than 6 million books, audiobooks, periodicals, DVDs, and CDs in circulation at more than 70 branches across the city. The LA County library system offers millions more on top of that, and regional library systems in places like Pasadena and Santa Monica have their own sprawling collections. 

But few people know that LA libraries also loan out several non-book items — all you need is a (free) library card. Michael McKnight rounded up some of these items for the Los Angeles Times. He shares a few of his favorites with KCRW.


A recent viral TikTok from the LAPL account explains how you can check out one of these fun-sized stringed instruments for up to three weeks. Each kit includes an instructional book and a tuner. McKnight says that they are the “only musical instrument on offer at our local libraries.”


The LAPL’s Tool Lending Library has more than 100 tools available to check out. It includes everything from sanders to sewing machines. 

“Anything you want tool-wise, sewing-wise, cooking-wise, or gardening-wise, they almost always are going to have it at the LA County Public Library,” says McKnight. 


At the Hill Avenue Branch of the Pasadena Library, you can choose from a selection of seeds to plant in your garden. McKnight says the idea is to let others reap the benefits of what you sow.

“You take [the seeds] home and you plant them, and you harvest whatever grows, whether it's a flower or a vegetable,” he says. “And you take the seeds from what you grew and take it back to the library, and someone else can check those seeds out.” 


We live in a digital age, but that doesn’t mean everyone has access to the same technology. LAPL and LA County Library patrons can check out laptops, hotspots, and more. They can also head to LAPL’s Creator Space to take advantage of everything from green screens to 3-D printers. 

Community services 

LA libraries have become de-facto hubs for community services, offering job search programs and take-home kits that guide people through the citizenship process. McKnight also notes that libraries offer free lunches during the summer, when kids aren’t in school. 

“I wish I had a nickel for every time I've gone into a library, found something I didn't expect, and left there leaving better than what I entered,” says McKnight.