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Ovation: Virginia Library To Lend American Girl Dolls.


AmericanGirlDollWhen I was a kid, little girls always had a doll to play with.  They weren’t particularly fancy and they didn’t always have a dream house but they served their purpose … at least for a short time.  Like most toys in a child’s collection, dolls were fun to play with when they were new but eventually became less interesting and found themselves at the bottom of the toy box.  Of course, toys were less expensive back then and never really thought of as “collectible”.  There were a few at our local library that children could play with while their parents checked out books.

American Girl dolls is a collection of eighteen-inch dolls released in 1986 by Pleasant Company portraying nine- to eleven-year-old girls of a variety of ethnicities.  Sold with accompanying books told from the viewpoint of the girls, the stories originally focused on various periods of American history but were expanded in 1995 to include characters and stories from modern life.  Needless to say, a plethora of clothing and accessories are available for the dolls, and it can become a quite costly obsession.

But parents of kids in Arlington County, Virginia won’t have to fork over the cash to pay for the $100+ dolls much longer.  Beginning this month, those with an Arlington County Library card can sign up to borrow one of eight dolls for a week.

“They’re really expensive.  I hear kids talking about the dolls, and the parents say, ‘No way.’” – Julia Karell, Branch Manager at the Cherrydale Library.

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 their neighborhood, too.  The Friends of the Arlington Public Library bought eight dolls and the librarians created a kit that would accompany each doll.  When a child checks out a doll, they’ll also receive a book, a card with local history related to the time period and a borrowers’ journal.

“We thought it would be a good community-building experience.  Girls could share the experiences they had with the dolls.  I think that we’re depending on the public to take care of the dolls.  We understand that it’s mostly kids who are going to be checking them out.” – Julia Karell

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 and there’s already a waiting list for some of the dolls.  Children can get their name on the list for a doll the same way they do for a popular book.  The library has received additional funding for the program and plans to buy more dolls.  The staff hopes that community members will eventually donate dolls that are no longer played with so the wait to borrow one won’t be so long.

“Our whole goal is to get people into the library.  This is a way to connect kids with books and with history.” – Julia Karell

I think this is a wonderful idea.  I certainly hope that both girls and boys are encouraged to check out the dolls with the accompanying books from the library.  Surely, they’ll lose interest in a short time and their parents won’t have to invest in the dolls.

What do you think?  Would you check out a doll from the library for your child?


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Copyright © 2013

From → Ovations

  1. i wouldn’t check out a doll from the library for my child. that said, i do see the value of having the doll for folks to check out. i imagine it’ll be a popular program.


    • I’m not really sure if I would or not. There’s something “germy” about sharing stuffed animals and other toys with strangers. On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to buy a doll that is so expensive.

      Of course books can carry germs, too …

      I worry too much.


      • books can be better cleaned than a doll can. our daughter had an american girl doll back in the day. i think it was $80. it was all she got for christmas that year and she was thrilled. well worth it over the 10 years she loved that doll.

        for me, a doll is almost a personal friend a child builds an actual relationship with. i can’t imagine having a doll i had to return in a couple of weeks or a month. my daughter would’ve been heartbroken.

        i see a use in the doll as a 3d illustration of the books more than as a doll for the child.

        of course that’s just me. others may not think of a doll in quite so personal a manner.


  2. Simon permalink

    You can follow the link or search the NY Times website for an article they published on 1/22/2013 about a NY Library branch that has a doll available for loan.


  3. American Girl is a marketing engine geared around selling devoted fans more stuff. My daughter had a few things, but steered clear. She had a friend and her mom along with other moms/ daughters went up to Chicago to these AG events. Yikes. I am an old guy, so my question is would a child play with a doll she did not own? In other words, would the parents prefer to purchase a discounted doll than get one from the library. Good post, BTG


    • My nieces have been to that store in Chicago more than once. I wonder if it’s really about “playing with” the dolls or simply “having” them … sort of a “Doll Aficionado Status Symbol”. Other times, the obsession could be more about the parent than the child.

      Thanks for reading!


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