April 1, 2016

Library of Things

Sacramento Public Library's "Library of Things" section. They buy it, store it, maintain it, and share it.

We teach our kids to share. Sharing is nice. People who want you to buy their stuff don't like it. They tell us everyone can, and should, have their own stuff. Millennials, and many others, don't care, and the sharing economy is starting to emerge in a big way.

The Sacramento Public Library recently started a “Library of Things”, allowing patrons to check out, among other things, sewing machines and other items that they may find useful, but don’t need to own long-term.

As libraries increasingly go bookless, facilitating the sharing of things other than books is an exciting innovation for the libraries of the post-consumer future.

Essentially a Library of Things is a space where you can borrow useful items like DIY tools, gardening things, art supplies, musical instrument, cooking supplies, and whatever else the community decides is important. There is also the opportunity to learn how to use items in 1-to-1 sessions and workshops, and meet neighbours.

These innovative undertakings can be part of public libraries, but also as part of a cooperative, or structured as non-profits. There is no reason why a neighbourhood or community couldn't do the same thing for the benefit of all.

We can thank the Millennial stuff-light stance toward consumerism for driving this sharing trend. They want access, not ownership. We have all known since childhood that sharing is good, but this generation is continuing to practise it as grown ups.

When we share, fewer items need to be made, and fewer resources need to be torn from the good earth. I can think of a few things that I could use, but don't need to or want to own. I am sure we all can. Watch for a Library of Things coming to a neighbourhood near you in the near future.

Imagine how much money you could save by sharing rather than buying. Imagine how Zen your garage would look.


  1. Hi Gregg,

    what an exciting idea! We used a toy library when the kids were little, and I would love access to a tool library for sure - maybe I will mention it to the librarian next time I'm checking out some books.

    Sometimes I've shared things with the neighbors - hey folks, good reason to get to know your neighbors! I'm trying to convince my daughter, who is just learning to drive, to share my car for as long as possible. Showing her the maths of car ownership is probably a good place to start.


    1. Most vehicles are money pits, unless you don't drive them much, but then why bother? Sharing is the way to go.

  2. Hi Gregg,

    thank you for your great text. Here in Finland libraries are very popular and, like you mentioned, they are becoming more and more bookless. Sure books can be still found as well (thank God as I am very keen reader) but also many kind of items can be found there for borrowing: outdoor games, drills, DVDs, sewing machines, skates,... Basically things that people need for short periods of time and therefore there is not sense to own them. I recommend that idea and it would be great if it was more and more copied in other libraries as well.

    1. I hope we never let the paper books be replaced entirely. What happens if the power goes off for good? I like everything about feeling and reading a book in my hands.

      You are so fortunate to have a library of things right where you are at. I agree that this concept deserves to be spread far and wide.

  3. Here in Australia some City Councils are allowing residents to grow vegetables on the nature stripes. The idea is to share with neighborhood or anyone that needs. Most suburbs here have places to borrow gardening equipment. Local library has got some sport equipment. Saffron

    1. I love the idea of being able to guerrilla garden on otherwise unused public spaces. It sounds like sharing is going strong in your area. So good to hear.

  4. I love this idea! In fact, I just wrote my library system and suggested starting something similar. I'm sure there are garages full of stuff around my town that people would be happy to donate. I know I could easily come up with things that I'd love to see accessible to people in my community, rather than sitting in my basement. Here's hoping this great idea spreads around the country.


    1. If we don't have such a thing close by, we all should be approaching our own public libraries. Usually they more than welcome input and interest from the public. I love your idea of donating things that others may wish to use. Wonderful!

  5. Thanks for writing this inspiring post.

    I agree with everyone - this is a great idea. My neighbor is a librarian, I'll share this with her. Our local library is always busy and best I can tell, isn't really going bookless yet. I don't think they have items like this to loan out, but the building has small meeting rooms that can be used by local entrepreneurs for meetings (or anyone else for that matter), computers to use, WiFi, and lots of space to sit and read. And as a lot of libraries do, they also have monthly concerts from local musicians, games and story time for kids, and a couple times a year, they have a teen game night and sleep-over -- in the library! It really is a community hub.

    On a separate note, I read on CNN/Money that auto makers are feeling uneasy because of businesses like Uber for just the reasons you mention - young people are feeling they don't need a car when they can share what is out there. Love this thinking!

    1. The powers that be do not want us to share. Sharing bad, selfishness good. Not any more, it looks like.

      Aren't libraries great? Last time I was in the library seniors were meeting in one of the public rooms. They were a large group of ukulele musicians practicing for a performance. Loved to hear them play, and I browsed at the same time.

      This is the way I see it - Competition is going out. Cooperation is coming in.

      Welcome to the new world, kinder than the old world.

  6. What a fresh idea and a very open-minded local government to allow a public building to be used for loaning things! And staff to manager the operation! I'm in!


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