It’s the day before Christmas, and you want to bake a Santa-shaped cake, but you don’t have a pan shaped like the portly fellow. No need to panic — you just might be able to borrow the pan from your local public library.
The North Haven Memorial Library in Connecticut started lending out cake pans in 2010. Their collection — which includes at least 300 pans — was donated by members of the community. Pat LaTerza, the library’s director of Children’s Services, was looking for new ways to attract patrons and noticed a trend emerging at other libraries.
“What I love about it is that it brings in people who might not otherwise come into the library,” LaTerza said. “It gets them in the library, and maybe they will take out a book, which is what we hope for.”
LaTerza, who decorated cakes as a teenager in her grandparents’ bakery, saves photos of customer creations in a three-ring binder that other patrons can flip through to get ideas.
She says the patrons love the collection — people come from out of town just to borrow the pans. About 60 to 70 pans are borrowed every month.
Katherine Donohue, also known as the “Cake Pan Lady,” is the library’s technical assistant in charge of the lending program.
People borrow the pans for all sorts of reasons, she said — from birthdays to communions, and, of course, holidays like Christmas.
The collection includes several Christmas-themed pans: Santa, Christmas trees, gingerbread men, wreathes and snowflakes to name a few.
The library also lends out other non-traditional items including cookie cutters, puppets and, starting sometime next year, sensory toys for special needs patrons such as those with autism.
According to the American Library Association’s 2014 State of the American Libraries Report, more than 90 percent of people who responded said that libraries are important to their community.
The popularity of the cake pans have really caught on said Donohue, “people from all walks of life have come into the library to borrow them,” from a grandfather and grandchild who wanted to bake a birthday cake for grandma, to a father and daughter who came in every week to borrow a different pan.
If the library doesn’t have a particular pan, Donohue said “We try to show them what they could make with what we do have,” like using a snow flake pan for a Frozen themed cake, or using Easter egg shaped pans to double as mini footballs.