May 23, 2018

Which musical instruments can you now check out from the Brooklyn Public Library?: An explainer


A beautiful place in Brooklyn.

True fact: Libraries are the best, even beside the fact that their most basic function—to make an endless supply of books available, for free, to everybody—is just psychedelically excellent. For instance, did you know that, when alarmed, libraries can camouflage themselves to look like whelks? That they can be hotbeds of life-affirming smut? That they’re sometimes centers of protest? More practically, in recent years libraries have offered an increasingly impressive slate of services: job training and basic healthcare, shelter and counseling for the homeless, addiction services, and keeping wayward seafolk busy, to name a few.

This week, here in the beautiful city of Brooklyn, the librarians are cooking up yet another toothsome offering. People, go crazy: the Brooklyn Public Library’s Musical Instrument Lending Library is now up and running.

What, you may ask, is a Musical Instrument Lending Library? Why, exactly what it sounds like. As long as you have a valid Brooklyn Library card, and don’t owe more than $15 in fines, you can check out an instrument from the library’s main branch in Grand Army Plaza for a period of eight weeks. (But before you run to the train, you’ll need to email [email protected] to check the availability of the instrument you want to borrow, and you’ll need to sign a loan agreement before you can take it home.) The Library designed the program in partnership with the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.

If you’re around Brooklyn this afternoon, there’s a kick-off party at the library from 2:30 to 5, with live music, refreshments, and instruments to try out.

This is all amazing, and it’s genuinely puzzling that everyone isn’t talking about it.

Exactly which instruments can and can’t the library loan you? An explainer:


Acoustic Guitar

Strummy or plucky, robust, sometimes patchouli-scented

Available at the BPL? Yes.



Droning, enveloping, oneiric, slightly oaky

Available at the BPL? Not yet, friends. Not yet.



A lute cross-bred with a chihuahua

Available at the BPL? Yes. Tiptoe through those tulips, comrades.


Balinese Gamelan

Percussive, transcendant, rhythmically twelve-dimensional

Available at the BPL? Alas, not for now.



The keening of the Alps, an old-fashioned Cajun clambake, or, possibly, some classical music

Available at the BPL? You bet.


Majestic Bellowphone

Très majestueuxbellissimo

Available at the BPL? The majestic bellowphone is available from libraries only in heaven.


Electronic Keyboard

Shape-shifter, but skews groovy, classy, or schmaltzy, depending

Available at the BPL? Yes! Well, maybe not this exact synthesizer, but electronic keyboards are available for sure.



The voice in which jello sings to ravishing ghosts

Available at the BPL? Not presently, but I tell you this: first mayoral candidate to run on a “theremin in every library” platform wins. Landslide. Count it.


Drum Pads

Bangy but not so very bangy

Available at the BPL? Yes! Drum pads, which simulate drums of the kind on which the man-and-beast rhythm-off is conducted in the above, are available.


Oh yeah, and they’ll let you borrow a music stand, too. Current and future musicians, get on it!



Ian Dreiblatt is the director of digital media at Melville House.