Guitars, pianos and hand drums are all items you can now check out with your library card in Kitchener.

A new instrument lending program was launched Monday at the Kitchener Public Library, thanks to a 150-instrument donation from Sun Life Financial.

It's all part of the library's mission to transform from book lender to cultural hub, CEO Mary Chevreau told CBC K-W.

"I see the instruments as just another expansion of our literacy mission," Chevreau said.

"We also are looking at literacy in a broader, more of a renaissance term of literacy. So we're looking at digital literacy, of course very seriously here, but also cultural literacy and arts and music."

Library patrons have said they want the opportunity to create their own content, Chevreau said during Monday's launch.

"We need to be transitioning and transforming all the time," Chevreau said.

Instruments and instructions

Sun Life Financial vice president philanthropy and sponsorships Paul Joliat said the company wants to make the arts more accessible. The program already runs in Toronto and Vancouver and Joliat said they wanted to bring it to Kitchener because this is where the company's head office is located.

Musician Bob Egan, formerly of Blue Rodeo and now KPL's manager of community development, was the driving force behind getting the instrument lending program up and running.

Guitars instrument lending library Kitchener Public Library

Guitars are ready to be checked out at Kitchener Public Library. (Carmen Ponciano/CBC)

The library will not only offer the instruments, but will also have all the resources to help people learn how to play them, including how-to videos on the KPL website.

"There's no other activity that youth can engage in that has the developmental benefits, the cognitive benefits, that learning an instrument does and playing with other people," Egan told Craig Norris, host of The Morning Edition, Monday before the official launch.

Egan said 150 instruments are "a good start" but the library is also running a community drive for instruments over the next month. People can contact the library for details on how to donate and donations will be accepted at Long and McQuade in Waterloo and at the Waterloo Jazz Festival July 21 to 23.

'It will change lives'

Canadian musician and Blue Rodeo frontman Jim Cuddy was on hand for the announcement.

He said musical education in school is "endangered" and a program like this will help spark musical creativity in young people.

"A program like this that will allow kids to just try something, maybe [they] want to try an electric guitar," Cuddy said.

"There's a great joy in being able to just grab an instrument and take it home and be in your bedroom and listen to it talk to you for a little while."

Cuddy added the program will go on for years as the instruments will last 25 years or more.

"This program can go on and on, and who knows how many lives it will change, but it will change lives," he said.

With files from the CBC's Flora Pan