What is the “Library of Things”?

What is the “Library of Things”?

The Library of Things is just one of the many libraries out there that offer their communities access to random necessities. Those looking for anything from board games to a lawn mower can take a look into the library’s inventory and, most likely, walk away with what they were looking for. A library of things is not as new of an invention as you would think. Libraries all around the world have different collections of things they feel may be useful or relevant to their community.

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The Library of Things is located in Oxford and takes up a small amount of space in the Aristotle House which is used by 16 different groups. Also known as “Lot”, the Library of Things was founded by Maurice Henson who stocks, runs, and organizes it all in his spare time. While space within the library is tight, Henson has managed to create a system for storing all of the library’s donations. His library’s inventory has plenty of fun items like an ice-cream maker, unicycle, and telescope as well as useful household tools like ladders and saws.

When items are returned after being loaned out, he makes sure to inspect them all before putting them back on the shelves to be checked out. This means counting all gameboard or jigsaw pieces and testing out tools and machines. One of his more memorable experiences involved a hacksaw that wasn’t returned because it had been confiscated by the police. Henson has a number of volunteers who help him out around the Lot and has three days out of the week dedicated to library hours. While his fun library idea has only been around for a few years, it has already gained plenty of attention and groups in other towns have consulted him about starting their own libraries.

Libraries of tools are also libraries that have useful collections of items for patrons to use. The first opened in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Additional tool libraries opened in the 1970s and were spread out across the country in New York, Ohio, and California. There are now libraries like this all over the place and people can use these collections for any of their projects. The libraries hoped that collections like these would encourage manual dexterity in the younger generation and make tools available to anyone in the community.

The Grosse Pointe Public Library’s tool collection has grown to 150 available items for the public to borrow using their library card. Some items they hold at the library include an axe, chisel, bolt cutter, etc. as well as entertainment-related items like a bocce ball set, croquet, and even giant jenga blocks to play with in your backyard. With items that can be used for general maintenance, renovating, gardening, and playing, the libraries are stocked and ready for any purpose. These types of collections make it easier for community members to work on projects and dive into their hobbies.

Community owned and run libraries are another way that people have gone about lending their things out. Streetbank is a website that is used to match people to others (“neighbors”) who can lend them what they need. The site has over 20,000 neighbors registered and has a total collection of more than 117,000 items for people to share.

The man who founded the Vancouver tool library, Chris Diplock, has also created something similar to this idea called the Thingery. This is a community owned, self-service lending library housed in a modified shipping container. Objects in the container are donated by the community it resides in and those with access are able to book items online, use their codes to enter the container, and scan the items they are checking out. The containers are accessible from 7am to 9pm everyday and only need infrequent staff visits to make seasonal adjustments.

There are quite a number of Thingery locations open in Canada as of now and those who aren’t close to one have the option of creating their own. What’s great about these setups is the community aspect of them. The local group establishes the rules and leadership and the community funds the inventory.

Libraries are useful and engaging spaces for many reasons. Having collections of things available for public use is not only a great way to increase access, it makes libraries all the more fun. Consider a library of things the next time you are planning a personal movie screening, room model, or game night. Or, better yet, stop in just to see what surprises you’ll come across!