At West Seattle's old Frank B. Cooper School, past the main office and down the hall you'll find the library -- but there are no books to check out. Inside what's now a cultural center aren't shelves of books, but walls of art.

It's called the Art Lending Library, and with your special library card you get access to hundreds of works from 50 local artists that you take home for free, just like you would a piece of literary art.

It's a way of entering the world of art collecting, said librarian Gina Coffman.

Charles Schrag never fancied himself much of an art collector. He struggles just to keep the plants alive in his drab, concrete office in a windowless basement in Seattle s Pioneer Square. The most interesting thing hanging from his wall is the gas meter.

Schrag, however, perked up the office with a little piece of art from the library.

It was a dreary space, and I wanted to have a place that was more comfortable than what existed here, he said.

Borrowers get to keep the works for 4 to 6 months with an option to buy.

There's no expectation to buy the art that you're loaned, said Schrag. It's not like a time share vacation where you go see the time share and they want you to buy. There's no hooks.

The only hooks that do exist are those in the walls, along with the hook you'll be on with the librarians if you don't return what you checked out.

Because the librarians deliver and pick up the artwork, we know where you live, said Coffman. We have your e-mail and phone number. We'll come to your door if we don't get the work back.

The Art Lending Library is believed to be the first of its kind in the country and has inspired similar projects in Chicago and San Francisco. They're holding a quarterly check-out event Tuesday night at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in West Seattle.

For more information, check out their Facebook page or

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