A Library in Millinocket, Maine, is Lending Mountain Bikes

The Millinocket Memorial Library is currently undergoing renovation. This shows the current, temporary location. photo: millinocketmemoriallibrary.org

Bike affordability is at the heart of every discussion about expanding and diversifying our sport. Mountain bikes are expensive, and not readily accessible to the general public. According to the Bangor Daily News, one library in Maine aims to change that by checking out mountain bikes and other outdoor gear in a system similar to the gear-loaning programs at many US colleges and universities.

photo: millinocketmemoriallibrary.org

Instead of reading about mountain biking, or watching videos, patrons can try the sport first hand. The circulation desk may need to be reworked with a repair stand in place of the pencil sharpener.

Like bike shops, libraries have had to adapt and take on new identities as the internet has absorbed some of their prior roles in society. They first served a source of paper and electronic information, novels, and the professionals who could quickly locate those materials. Today, public libraries are loaning out everything from power tools to canoes, in addition to books.

The Millinocket Memorial Library was defunded and closed for a short period in 2015, only to reopen under the management of a non-profit led by director Matt DeLaney. The canoes, mountain bikes, kayaks, stand up paddle-boards and other gear were donated to the library by the nearby Outdoor Sport Institute, and are free for anyone to use.

Programs like this seem to lower the barrier of entry to the outdoors and to mountain biking, while keeping the spirit of what a library is meant to be.