Athens County Public Libraries have provided students with an alternative to riding in a car or taking a bus for nearly four years: borrowing a bike.

Starting in 2013, the Athens County Public Libraries, including libraries in Nelsonville, The Plains, Glouster and Athens, have been allowing Athens community members with library cards in good standing to borrow bikes through a program called “Book-a-Bike.” Those with valid library cards can go to their local libraries and fill out a lending agreement, which will be kept on file for the next time the cardholder chooses to borrow a bike.

Currently, there are 23 bikes in circulation, which is two more than the program initially started with in 2013. Those bikes have been provided by Athens Bicycle, 4 W. Stimson Ave.

Bikes are the most checked out item at the Athens County Public Libraries, Greg LaVelle, librarian and so-called "bike guru" at the Athens County Public Library, said.

“If we had a book, a super popular book, how many times is that book going to be checked out?” Lavelle said. “For this to be the number one checked out item overall, in the course of a whole year ... it's still pretty good.”

Those who borrow bikes are able to rent equipment, such as helmets, head and tail lights, and locks with no fees attached. Athens County Public Libraries had requested about $17,400 to fund the program, an amount covered by a grant from the O'Bleness Foundation, Nick Tepe, director of the Athens County Public Libraries, said.

The lack of fees is one reason Tepe hopes college students will begin to make better use of the program. Tepe said he believes that college students are “probably one of (the libraries') untapped audiences.”

Mallory Golski, a sophomore studying journalism, said the program would encourage her to get a library card.

"I didn't even know that this was a possibility, so that would definitely be an incentive (to get a library card)," Golski said.

LaVelle said college students who do have a library card have used the program for errands or physical activity.

“College students borrow them, even if it's just for a quick trip to Wal-Mart to get stuff and then ride back and drop it off at their apartment, then bring the bike back,” LaVelle said.

Students and community members are able to borrow bikes once per day for three hours. Holds can be made no more than one hour in advance to borrow, but the bike must be returned 30 minutes before closing. Before and after riders use the bikes, safety checklists are used to make sure bikes are in the right shape to be ridden.

If the bikes have maintenance issues, LaVelle fixes them.

“The most common repair is probably a flat tire, just from the excessive wear,” LaVelle said. “We are replacing all of the brake pads this year because they have been used so much.”

Tepe said there is a $2,000 budget for those repairs, but it is rare that all $2,000 is used in a given year for repairs to the bikes.

When repairs are needed while a rider is using the bicycle, they can call the library they are borrowing the bike from. 

“Call us,” LaVelle said. “We want to make sure (riders) have a cell phone or some sort of device so they can keep track of time, and most people have cell phones.”

The Athens Public Library, 30 Home St., is open Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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