WHITEWATER — The staff of Whitewater Memorial Library like to think outside the book.


For the past three years, the library has offered a selection of costumes for its patrons to check out.


"Anybody can come and borrow a costume," said Jean Thiessen, library director.


The library's collection of costumes — in sizes infant to adult — has grown over time.


"It started out with garage sale and thrift store purchases and then people have donated," Thiessen said.


The costumes are encased in plastic bags that are labelled with a picture and information about its size and accessories and are placed in the library's storage shed for most of the year. The library also has a collection of masks.


"We put them out around the middle of October," Thiessen said.


The idea has proved to be popular, with around 60 costumes being loaned out during the month.


"Princesses are always a big one," said Joyce Bevan, Whitewater Memorial Library's administrative specialist.


The costumes can be checked out for three weeks and the library ensures they are cleaned after each use so they are ready for the next outing.


The library does not charge a patron if pieces of the costume go missing.


"We decided to go into it with the idea of just having fun. Stuff happens on Halloween," Thiessen said.


Though the costumes are returned to storage once the Halloween holiday is over, patrons can still check them out as needed.


"They're available year-round, but we only have them in here for Halloween," Thiessen explained.


Pieces of the costumes, such as hats, can be used for other special days


"When kids are doing book reports, sometimes they're required to dress as the character," Thiessen said.


Thiessen encourages patrons to come and browse through the available costumes.


"You can see them in the online catalog, as well," Thiessen said. "There's a picture and a description."


The costumes — which range from "scary to sweet," according to Thiessen — are arranged by size and hung on makeshift horizontal poles in what little room the library has to spare.


Whitewater Memorial Library will participate in Whitewater's Trick or Treat Street from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 31. More than 200 kids came by the library for last year's event and the staff is gearing up to accommodate even more trick-or-treaters this year.


"We hand out bags," Thiessen said. "This year, they will each get a bag and a book."


For more information about Whitewater Memorial Library, located at 118 E. Topeka, visit http://whitewater.scklf.info or call 316-799-2471.