Library that loans American Girl doll flooded with support

Kirsten, the American Girl doll, has become a favorite check-out item among kids visiting the Ottendorfer Library in New York's East Village.

Check her out. At a New York Public Library branch in the East Village, so many patrons have done so that Kirsten the American Girl doll needs some delicate repairs.

The Ottendorfer library’s suddenly famous loaner mascot has, as The New York Times put it, "been inundated with such an outpouring of love and appreciation lately that she is nearly coming apart at the seams."

So Kirsten Larson (the doll's full name) was headed Wednesday to the American Girl Doll Hospital in Middleton, Wis., where she will undergo some delicate repairs to mend her loose limbs and matted hair, among other "complications" due to excessive wear and tear.

Or, as the doll hospital's website put it:

"American Girl dolls are meant to be played with, but sometimes during the fun, accidents happen. That's why the experts at the American Girl Doll Hospital are here to help with everything from a thorough cleaning to major 'surgery.' Doll doctors will make her as good as new and send her back ready to be loved for years and years."

The staff at the Ottendorfer library — especially Thea Taube, the children’s librarian — are eagerly awaiting Kirsten's return. Kirsten has become a unique and oft-requested circulation item, ever since Taube took the 18-inch-tall doll out of storage about eight years ago and began lending it out to girls, much like she would do with books.

The doll was originally part of a donation by American Girl to the New York Public Library system in 2003.

"The doll was in the box in Thea's office just sitting there for two years untouched. She took her out of the box and quietly put it on the desk outside in the library. It kind of happened naturally, girls noticed it sitting there and just started playing with it," library spokesman Jonathan Pace told MSN News on Wednesday.

"The library's mission is to serve the community. People take out books, DVDs, circulating materials. They can even check out a laptop (to use while in the library). Thea had this idea, after seeing all these little kids playing with it, of why not a doll? So on honor code basis she approached these girls and said, 'You want to take Kirsten home for the weekend?'"

And thus a library star was born.

It's not known for sure how many girls have "checked out" Kirsten, since she isn't catalogued like books and other borrowed items are.

"Unfortunately I never kept any records about our doll. I would estimate she has been borrowed around 70 times. Several children have borrowed her repeatedly," Taube told MSN News. "On several occasions children would come into the library only to visit with Kirsten!"

Video: New York City library overwhelmed with offers of dolls-to-lend

Since Kirsten's story first appeared in The New York Times last week — and later spoofed on Saturday Night Live, in which host Seth Myers quipped that the doll was being lent out “because some people haven’t gotten the flu yet" — the New York Public Library system has been inundated with calls and correspondence from people offering to donate dolls, and in some cases, money. American Girl dolls retail for $110, according to the Times.

But Pace said the library system isn't set up to receive dolls. He said people offering their dolls should instead consider donating them to their local child-welfare organization. "If people want to donate to the library, they can donate in other ways," he said.

As for Kirsten, the Ottendorfer library is planning a "welcome home" party upon her return from the hospital, which is likely the longest trip she's ever taken. Aside from the repairs, the doll "will return in a hospital gown, with a get-well balloon, hospital bracelet and a certificate of good health," American Girl spokeswoman Stephanie Spanos said in an email to MSN News.

Taube is downright giddy about Kirsten's magical pull and the offers of support and tales of appreciation she's received from the public. She plans on lending out three new dolls in addition to a fixed-up Kirsten.

"I'm excited and I'm having fun with this," she said.

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