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Library of things

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Balls for ball games is an example of sporting equipment which can be lent
Skiing equipment

A library of things is any collection of objects loaned, and any organization that practices such loaning. Objects often include kitchen appliances, tools, gardening equipment and seeds,[1] electronics,[2] toys and games, art,[3] science kits, craft supplies, musical instruments, and recreational equipment such as sports and outdoors gear.[4] Especially appropriate are objects that are useful occasionally but cumbersome to store, such as specialized cookware or niche technology items.[5] Collections vary widely, but go far beyond the books, journals, and media that have been the primary focus of traditional libraries.[6]

The library of things movement is a growing trend in public, academic and special libraries in many countries.[7][8] There are also free-standing organizations separate from libraries, such as tool libraries, toy libraries, community sharing centers,[9] independent non-profits, and individual initiatives. The term 'Library of Things' was popularized by a grassroots experiment started in London in 2014, themselves inspired by Toronto Tool Library.

The Share Shed (Totnes, UK) is developing the first mobile library of things. Collections are often supported by educational programming and public events.[10] These borrowing centers and library collections are part of the sharing economy.[11]

In Wales, Benthyg Cymru have developed a network to support each other sharing knowledge not just things.

Types of collections


Arts and crafts


Art rentals are being made available for library patrons for borrowing prints, posters, paintings, and other visual art.[12] Additionally, many libraries 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.[13]

Electronics and 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.[14]

Musical instruments


Instrument collections have been brought in to libraries, often accompanied by sheet music, tuners, amps, and educational resources.[15] 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.[16] Lopez Island Library in Lopez Island, Washington 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.[17] In Oregon, The Jackson County Library Services Library of Things music collection includes a table top electric drum set and a kalimba thumb piano.[18] Music Broth in Scotland has as of 2024 around 3000 instruments. Beginning in Glasgow in 2017, it's library includes everything from guitars to ouds, домра/domra, violins, dulcimers, and electronic music equipment, all the way up to events equipment.[19]

Kitchen equipment


Specialized kitchen equipment including food dehydrators, popcorn machines, ice cream makers, air fryers, instant pots, and Kitchen Aid blenders are available to borrow for home use.[20][18] Cake pans and novelty bakeware have been particularly popular additions to libraries, with many stand-alone collections being created.[21]

Gardening and seed libraries


Seed libraries have cropped up as a part of public library collections.[22] 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.[23] Some seed libraries have become a point of contention with state governments' agriculture departments.[24] 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.[25] Some libraries are also creating community gardens[26] where library users can check out a garden plot for a growing season.[27]

Home tools

Kill A Watt, an electricity-use measurement tool, available to borrow at a Los Angeles Public Library branch

Home monitoring tools such as thermal cameras, leak detectors, air quality meters, infrared thermometers, energy meters, and other devices are available in some collections for borrowing.[28]



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,[29] frisbees and whiffle balls, bird watching kits and croquet,[30] badminton, bocce or pickleball sets.[31]

Similarly, libraries are checking out party supplies for social recreation, including items like bubble, cotton candy, and karaoke machines, chocolate fountains, or boomboxes.[32]

Science and maker


The Maker movement[33] 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.[4][34] Similarly, science tools like digital microscopes, telescopes, light meters and themed science kits are being made available to borrow.[35]



Tool libraries have gained popularity as free-standing borrowing centers in many cities, and libraries[36] 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.[37]



Toy lending centers have a longer history, stretching back to the Great Depression.[38] Recently,[when?] though, libraries have come to embrace the concept of toy libraries, and have introduced lending collections of puppets, board games, American Girl dolls,[39] puzzles, blocks and a wide variety of other toys into their collections.[38][40]



The library of things movement is expanding to include an ever-widening array of items. Objects include tiebraries,[41] taxidermied animals,[42] museum passes,[43] or Santa Claus suits.[44] Palm Harbor Public Library in Florida has a collection for role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons (the Mark Mazurek Role Playing Game Collections).[45]

List of organizations


Traditional libraries





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