Possibly Rent a Free American Girl Doll with the Lending Program at Your Library

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American Girl doll standing on library books shelf

American Girl dolls are a timeless toy that many kids love and really enjoy playing with. Except, the cost alone can leave a lot of parents opting not to buy these dolls. Even with our tips to save on American Girl dolls and accessories and the occasional deals we share, these dolls can still be out of budget for so many.

The good news is that your local library may be participating in a lending program where you can bring one home for free!

Here’s how some libraries are able to participate in the American Girl Lending Program:

girl sitting with american girl dolls

According to ABC News

A 14-year-old Girl Scout named Olivia Reduto raised about $800 for a project which ended up landed her a Girl Scouts’ Silver Award. She then went on a shopping spree at the flagship American Girl doll store located in New York City and bought a bunch of dolls that she planned to donate to local libraries.

But she didn’t just buy any dolls.

african american girl doll in pink box

Olivia really did her research on cultures and different ethnicities. She said her goal was to dig deep into the history and the surroundings of each library that she planned to donate to – that way each doll would be as relatable as possible to the kids who would eventually be renting them.

Here’s what American Girl had to say about the lending program:

“Children have been checking out American Girl books and reading about the adventures of their favorite characters from long ago and today for more than 30 years at their local libraries. It’s thrilling to see the growing number of libraries that are now adding American Girl dolls to their lending collections as well. Libraries encourage a lifelong love of reading, curiosity, and learning, so we’re proud that our American Girl dolls and books can be a part of these efforts.”

Key benefits to the American Girl Doll Lending Program:

1. Helps family’s who can’t afford one.

American Girl Doll savings tips(1)

American girl dolls run well over $100, plus much more when you factor in the cost of accessories and clothes. With the chance to rent one for free, kids who aren’t able to have one of their own will be able to embrace the joy of having an American Girl doll, without the costs.

2. They encourage kids to read.

two American Girl dolls on library table with books

American Girl dolls have always been extra special because they come with a story and background which you read and learn about in their coordinating book. It’s way more than just a doll – their history, ethnicity, and culture make them relatable and fun for the kids who get to enjoy them.

3. It creates more sense of community.

girlholding two american girl dolls

Having a lending program that brings kids and families together is a key factor in creating a better community, whether in the city or the suburbs. This program offers many possibilities for helping children to learn and grow while engaging with peers and other families who have similar interests.

Here’s what one participating library had to say about the program:

“Play in childhood is an important building block to learning, and one of the many different ways that children come to understand the world around them. The books that we include with each doll also help teach lessons about important periods in American history. We also hope to put them in the hands of young people who may not be fortunate enough to own one themselves. So far, they have been very popular with our customers!” 

– West Charleston Library | Las Vegas, NV

While each American Girl doll lending program can vary per library, here are some of the general rules & criteria to rent a doll:

The answers to these FAQ’s are gathered from the Zio-Benton Public Library and can vary per location. Please keep in mind that not all libraries participate in this program and American Girl does not currently participate in funding this lending program. 

American Girl Doll and a book in American Girl Store

  • What do I need to borrow a doll? A library card in good standing accompanied by an adult.
  • How do I borrow a doll kit? You’ll fill out a sign-out form when the doll you want is available and a library employee will go over the instructions with you.
  • How old do you have to be to check out a doll? The dolls are intended for children ages 6 and up.
  • How long can you keep the doll for? You’ll get to enjoy the doll for two weeks.
  • How do you return the doll? You’ll fill out a sign-in form and an employee will make sure everything has been returned in the condition it was borrowed.
  • What if I lose the doll or an accessory? The cost of the doll, book, carrying case, clothes and accessories are all taken into account. To replace an entire set would run you over $200.
  • Can you put a hold on a doll? Yes! You would do this just like a book and you’ll be notified when the doll is available.

Are you anxious to get your hands on an American Girl doll now?

To find out if your local library participates, all you have to do is call and ask!

You won’t believe everything else your local library can do!

About the writer:

Sara is a self-taught blogger & photographer and brings 9+ years of experience to her craft. Her work has been featured in numerous esteemed publications, spanning building, travel, and fashion. Beyond her creative pursuits, Sara’s primary mission is to empower others to embrace a toxic-free & sustainable lifestyle.

Join The Discussion

Comments 15

  1. Rae

    What a great idea. I had one as a child even though my family couldn’t afford it. It took me over a year and LOTs of chores, and yard work for neighbors, and lemonade stands. I even had to pay the shipping cost myself. I was able to pass my doll down to my daughter last year (once I felt she was old enough) and it is still in mint very well cared for condition. The well written books really bring the dolls to life.

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      I love that! Thanks so much for sharing your experience in saving for a doll and passing it on to your daughter, Rae!

  2. Chelsey Gray

    Our local library in Edwardsville, IL has them. I think they have around 20 and several are retired. My daughter loves it. They even have extra outfits for each doll that you can check out.

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      That sounds so fun!

  3. Jennine Wassink

    So fun! Our library doesn’t currently have dolls. However we do have some pretty sweet snap circuit sets haha

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      My kids loved playing with snap circuit sets! Thanks, Jennine Wassink!

  4. Tabitha

    I love the idea but the replacement cost is high. Yes, the dolls are intended to help kids enjoy owning/borrowing them especially if you are on a budget. But by accident let’s say your toddler climbed up on the bed and colored on it. That family that didnt have the money to buy one to begin with, now have to pay for the doll.

    • MommySpendsLess

      I was thinking something similar. If I couldn’t afford something to begin with, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for borrowing it. (But I also don’t like driving other people’s cars and avoided flying the company drone…)

      I was also thinking about how attached my daughter gets to all of her stuffed animals, dolls, squishies, etc. When she was younger she would have had a hard time giving up a doll after “bonding” with it for two weeks. I think parents will have to frame it up right.
      It would be really cool if there were a way girls could earn a discounted version of a generic doll. The Target dolls, for example, are already a 5th of the price of American Girl. It’d be awesome if libraries or schools could team up with Target to sell them at cost to families in exchange for girls earning points through getting good grades, reading books, completing science/math/art activities and volunteering in the community. (And a similar program for boys of course, not trying to leave anyone out.)

    • Happy

      Little kids can make dolly hair super ugly too. It’s fun to comb it, but it doesn’t stay nice for too long. I would think the dolls would get pretty battered looking just from regular wear and tear really fast.
      Kids want to play with these. Not admire them on a shelf.

  5. lk

    You aren’t renting the doll, simply borrowing it from your library. Your tax dollars at work!

  6. Pretygirlygirl

    My daughter just turned 7. When she was 5 she asked Santa for an American doll. I can’t see myself spending the money on an American doll. SO my daughter has a few from Walmart now. Santa brought her the original “American doll” from Walmart 😬 and she loves it. When I refer to her doll I say please put your American dolls away. She knows no difference. She has extra clothes and tons of the accessories and play sets from Walmart because a few months ago there was a HUGE clearance and I got the BIG sets for $7 and $9 each.

  7. Sue

    I’d be worried the doll would get damaged or lost during its 2 week stay at my house. That is why we don’t check out books either. We buy books at garage sales for .25 or .50. Then after they are read we either save for or own library or donate to the local school. One lost hardback book from the library easily costs $15. That could be up to 60 garage sale books.

  8. Hope

    American Girl should contribute to this. It would be great publicity for them and it’s the right thing to do.

  9. C

    I think it sounds good in theory, but in reality, I don’t see this working very well. I foresee these dolls being ruined or “lost” (aka kept) by people (here at our libraries- and I assume other public ones are the same- if you lose something or late return something you can’t check out anything else until you pay the fine or it gets waived- but it’s not like they hunt you down or send you mail requesting money if you decide to not check out anything again- imagine a family with 2 or more kids and one of them “borrows” dolls and keeps them, siblings can then just use their cards to get that one books- or of course they check them out from the school library which isn’t connected to the public ones)…. also with the retired dolls, I could see people keeping them and selling them on eBay as they can go for a pretty penny… also as these dolls have soft bodies and clothes, if they go home to a smoking home, they will probably stink to high heaven (or get infested with bed bugs in a home with bug problems)… kids can get too attached as well.., how about instead they teach people how to live within their means at local libraries? I had to buy my own American girl stuff (looking back I wish I would’ve put that money in my savings for the future) when I was a child- my parents rarely bought me anything that expensive even though they could more than afford it…. I did have a ridiculous amount of toys and always got way too attached IMHO – I really wish I would’ve had only a couple of toys with my money from birthdays or whatnot in my bank account for traveling in the future

  10. E

    This is a neat idea, problems aside. I could see my kids getting attached to the doll and not wanting to give it up. Pretty sure our library doesn’t have them because we are in there all the time. I see the target/Walmart dolls at goodwill and yard sales fairly often, which is an option if you really want one and the target version is still pricey (because let’s face it, we’ve been there!).

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