Library of Things
Library of Things describes non-traditional collections that are being loaned by libraries, and can include kitchen appliances, tools, gardening equipment and seeds, electronics, toys and games, art, science kits, craft supplies, musical instruments, recreational equipment, and more. These new types of collections vary widely, but go far beyond the books, journals, and media that have been the primary focus of library collections in the past.
The Library of Things movement is a growing trend in public, academic, and special libraries in the United States. There are also free-standing organizations outside of libraries that offer borrowing services, such as tool libraries, toy libraries, or independent non-profits. These borrowing centers and library collections are all a part of the sharing economy. Many of these libraries are offering tools and equipment that are useful to have access to, such as specialized cookware or niche technology items, but are often cumbersome to own and store. Library of Things collections are often supported by educational programming and public events.
Types of Collections
Although it is not unusual for libraries to lend materials beyond books (music, movies, e-readers, etc.) some have drastically expanded their 'things' collections in recent years. Library of Things collections have expanded to include:
Art & Craft
Art rentals are being made available for library patrons for borrowing prints, posters, paintings, and other visual art. Additionally, many Library of Things are adding arts and crafts equipment and supplies for use in the library or for check out. Crafting tools may include sewing machines, knitting kits, die-cutters, papercraft tools, jewelry repair and embroidery kits, scrapbooking supplies, and button makers.
Electronics & Technology
Libraries have been lending electronics like e-readers, tablets, and laptops for quite some time already, but are now expanding the range of electronics that they lend through the Library of Things. Electronics offerings have expanded to include mobile hot spots, projectors, scanners, GoPros, graphics tablets, digital and film cameras, video games, converters (vinyl, cassette, and VHS to digital files), green screens, and video cameras.
Instrument collections have been brought in to libraries, often accompanied by sheet music, tuners, amps, and educational resources. The Free Library of Philadelphia launched its Musical Instrument Collection (MIC) in 2016, and lending includes an electric guitar, mandolin, electric bass, ukulele, acoustic-electric guitar, and a banjo. Lopez Island Library introduced a musical instrument "petting zoo", which includes instruments like acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, cello, clarinet, flugelhorn, French horn, electric keyboard, recorder, ukulele, viola, and violin.
Specialized kitchen equipment, including food dehydrators, popcorn machines, ice cream makers, specialized blenders, and cake pans are available to borrow for home use. Cake pans and novelty bakeware have been particularly popular additions to libraries, with many stand-alone collections being created.
Gardening & Seed Libraries
Seed libraries have cropped up as a part of public library collections. Many have a policy for users who 'check out' seeds for a growing season; they agree to plant the checked-out seeds and then save seeds from the yield to return to the collection for the following year. Some seed libraries have become a point of contention with state governments' agriculture departments. Agricultural equipment, landscaping tools, and gardening supplies are also included in 'things' collections, and may include rakes, hedge trimmers, pruners, hand tools, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers. Some libraries are even creating community gardens where library users can check out a garden plot for a growing season.
Home monitoring tools are increasingly available in concert with other tools in Library of Things collections. Thermal cameras and leak detectors, air quality meters, infrared thermometers, energy meters, and other monitoring devices are being made available for check out.
Some libraries are bringing in equipment to help users enjoy outdoor recreation, sometimes in partnership with local Parks and Recreation departments. Among a wide range of recreation equipment offerings are fishing rods, frisbees and whiffle balls, bird watching kits, and croquet, badminton, bocce, or pickleball sets.
Similarly, libraries are checking out party supplies for social recreation, including items like bubble, cotton candy, and karaoke machines, chocolate fountains, or boomboxes.
Science & Maker
The Maker movement has had an influence on the collections available at Libraries of Things, and as a result there are littleBits, Arduino, Makey Makey, Raspberry Pi, robotics kits, coding toys, 3D printers, and vinyl and laser cutters may be available for check out at many libraries. Similarly, science tools like digital microscopes, telescopes, light meters, and themed science kits are being made available to borrow.
Tool libraries have gained popularity as free-standing borrowing centers in many cities, and libraries are also bringing in tool collections for borrowing. Hand and power tools for home improvement, construction, and fine woodworking are popular additions to libraries, and often are accompanied by programming and educational opportunities.
Toy lending centers have a longer history, stretching back to the Great Depression. Recently, though, libraries have come to embrace the concept of toy libraries, and have introduced lending collections of puppets, board games, American Girl Dolls, puzzles, blocks, and a wide variety of other toys into their collections.
The Library of Things movement is expanding in include an ever-widening array of items. Other useful 'things' collections include tiebraries, taxidermied animals, museum passes, or Santa suits. One library even offers a collection of books for those intersted in role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Sourcebooks and dice sets are available to borrow from the Mark Mazurek Roll Playing Game Collections at Palm Harbor Public Library in Palm Harbor, Florida. 
Library of Things
- Ann Arbor District Library - Michigan, United States
- Berkeley Public Library - California, United States
- Brookline Public Library - Massachusetts, United States
- Capitol Area District Libraries - Michigan, United States
- Cary Memorial Library - Massachusetts, United States
- Dover Town Library - Massachusetts, United States
- Elmhurst Public Library - Illinois, United States
- Hillsboro Public Library - Oregon, United States
- Livingston Public Library - New Jersey, United States
- Pinellas Public Library Cooperative - Florida, United States
- Reading Public Library - Massachusetts, United States
- Sacramento Public Library - California, United States
- Mesa Public Library - Arizona, United States
- Washington-Centerville Public Library - Ohio, United States
- Leila - Berlin, Germany
- Leila - Leipzig, Germany
- Library of Things - London, England
- De Spullenier - Utrecht, Netherlands
- SHARE - Frome, England
- Sharing Depot - Toronto, Ontario
- Library of Things - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
- Knjižnica REČI - Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Library of Things - Prague, Czech Republic
- Share Shed - Brisbane, Australia
- Bibliothek der Dinge / Knižnica vecí - Goethe-Institut, Bratislava, Slovakia
- La Manivelle - Geneva, Switzerland
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