Nfld. & Labrador

Ever wanted to learn mandolin? Accordion? Ukulele? Grab your library card

Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen and Atwood — side by side with banjos, accordions, ukuleles and violins.

St. John's library unveils new instrument-lending program for budding and long-time musicians

Glenn Barry signs out a mandolin at the A.C. Hunter Public Library in St. John's. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

Library visitors are stereotypically quiet, but a new kind of collection at the A.C. Hunter Library in St. John's might change that.

The library today unveiled a collection of 150 musical instruments that can be signed out by patrons, a month at a time.

If we'd had access to this when we were kids, we'd have the door beat down trying to get in.- Alan Doyle

Petty Harbour singer-songwriter and Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle says he was lucky to grow up in a musical family with instruments around, but adds others aren't as fortunate.

Doyle — who donated a couple of instruments to the collection himself, including a signed guitar — said he and his friends in the musical community would have loved to sign out different instruments when they were younger.

"If we'd had access to this when we were kids, we'd have the door beat down trying to get in, nine o'clock in the morning," he said, laughing.

"I love the idea of the possibilities of it all," added Doyle, on hand for the unveiling to give the new instruments a test run.

Alan Doyle performs at the launch of a new musical intrument-lending program at the A.C. Hunter Library in St. John's. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

"And it's a possibility for everybody. All you need is a library card, you know what I mean?" Doyle said.

"It's a real way to get people involved in music and the possibility of music in their lives, who probably wouldn't have had it a week ago. It's great. I love it."

The instruments were largely donated by Sun Life Financial, along with $140,000 to fund operating costs, and organized by music store Long & McQuade.

'It's absolutely wonderful'

Library patron Glenn Barry — signing out a mandolin on which he planned to teach himself Grey Foggy Day — was enthusiastic about the new program.

"What an opportunity to come in here, sign out an instrument, and for four weeks," he said.

"That gives you a ton of time to get used to it and decide if you want to stick with it. It's absolutely wonderful."

Leigha Chiasson-Locke, regional librarian for St. John's public libraries, said they're trying to shift the focus of the library from a book warehouse to a community hub.

Leigha Chihasson-Locke, regional librarian for St. John's, says the provincial libraries organization wants its facilities to be seen more as community hubs where people can expand their learning in a variety of areas. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

"Having instruments really gives opportunity to explore something that maybe you didn't know that you loved before, or maybe you did know and you want to revisit it," she said.

This is also a great way to bring new people in to library branches, she said.

"Anybody can come in and borrow something," said Chiasson-Locke.

"I read this really great story in another city about how somebody had come in to borrow a mandolin, and she hadn't played a mandolin in about 60 years, but she came in and she got one and she was so thrilled, and we're really hoping that we see that here as well."

Starting today and running until Aug. 24, Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries is having a musical instrument donation drive to add to its collection. The organization is seeking new or slightly used guitars, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, violins, drums and portable keyboards.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador