Check it out: Library starts lending dolls

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Saving for an American Girl doll might take months or even a year. But now there's a way for some kids to bring one home without paying the $110 price tag. Beginning this month, anyone with an Arlington County, Va., library card can sign up to borrow one of eight dolls for a week.

"They're really expensive," said Julia Karell, branch manager at the Cherrydale Library in Arlington. "I hear kids talking about the dolls, and the parents say, 'No way.' "

Ms. Karell said she and other Arlington librarians recently read about a New York City library that was lending one of the dolls in American Girl's historical series and thought the idea would be popular in Arlington.

The Friends of the Arlington Public Library bought eight dolls: Josefina (whose character is from 1824), Marie-Grace and Cecile (1853), Addy (1864), Rebecca (1914), Molly (1944), and Julie and Ivy (1974). Librarians then created a kit that would accompany each doll: an American Girl book, a card with Arlington history related to the time period and a borrowers' journal.

"We thought it would be a good community-building experience," Ms. Karell said. "Girls could share the experiences they had with the dolls."

Youth service librarians will be in charge of the dolls and will clean them between borrowings. As with books, wear and tear on the dolls is expected over time, Ms. Karell said.

"I think that we're depending on the public to take care of the dolls," she said. "We understand that it's mostly kids who are going to be checking them out."

Even before it started, the lending program already had a waiting list of more than 60 people for some of the dolls.

Ms. Karell said the library has just received additional money for the program and plans to buy more dolls. She said the library staff also hopes that community members will eventually donate dolls that are no longer played with.

"We don't want it to be such a long time to wait for the dolls that it would be discouraging," she said.

News of the lending program has prompted some library patrons to check out the books, which the library has had in its collection for years.

"Our whole goal is to get people into the library," Ms. Karell said. "This is a way to connect kids with books and with history."

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