What’s in a Library of Things?


The role of libraries has evolved significantly over the years, and at the WFPL, we’re very proud to continue the march forward. We will always have collections of books on almost any topic imaginable, so we will always endeavor to fire your imagination and satisfy your need for information. But as important as our books are, we are so much more! We’re a movies and lectures and archival materials library. We’re a laser cutting in our own makerspace and a learning how to eat healthy library. We’re a lap sit story time and free wifi library. We’re a Girls Who Code and summer reading party library.  We’re a Magic The Gathering and digital downloads and tracing your family history library.

And now we’re preparing to embark on yet another new journey to become a Library of Things library.

Like staff in many libraries, we’ve been thinking about what makes a library a library?   We’ve been thinking and talking about the role libraries play in not only supporting their communities, but providing a focal point around which those communities coalesce.    We’ve been thinking about all of those material “things” out in the world that every person or every household might have occasional need for, but really does not need to own.

Enter the Library of Things.

There is a significant movement underway in libraries across the United States for libraries to support their communities by providing a wide array of “things” for checkout. Some of the most frequently held items are basic home toolkits, thermal imaging cameras, stud-finders, soil testers, and Go-Pro cameras. These might be items you’d only be likely to need once, or once in a blue moon, or they might be items you’d like to try out before purchasing. Some libraries have gone so far as to check out bicycles!

Aside from good community-minded sharing and frugality, there’s another significant benefit of this model: we’d all be doing one more small thing toward sustainable living.   Does each house on your street need to own a stud-finder, or would it do a world of good if we all learned to share, thus creating less stuff, and less trash which is ultimately destined for a landfill?

The WFPL has dabbled in this arena already:  you can check out laptops and headphones while you’re here, you can check out puzzles and videogames and movies, and for the last couple of years, we have been offering a telescope and a Go Pro Camera – both have proven to be wildly popular.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be circulating a brief questionnaire asking what types of items you’d like to see in a WFPL Library of Things. Look for the survey at the WFPL’s booth at the Watertown Farmer’s Market on 9/11 and 10/9, and at Faire on the Square 9/28! In the meantime, if there’s something you’d like us to consider adding to our Library of Things for circulation, please let us know in the comments below!

– Jill, WFPL Adult Services Supervisor

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