Library of Things: If you build it, will they come?

More and more libraries on the national and international level are initiating a Library of Things.  The Sacramento Library of Things  allows patrons to check out tools, pieces of art, devices, instruments and more.  This exciting concept helps communities crowdsource materials for sharing.  Why buy a bike repair kit when you may only use it once?  This type of sharing can even be helpful to the environment by discouraging unnecessary consumerism.

At Albemarle High School, we’ve started to collect materials towards the goal of a Library of Things tailored to a 9th – 12th grade environment.  Students suggested items that they would likely check out for one-time use if the school offered them.  Some of these items include recording devices, musical instruments, small appliances, and more.  Our goal is to make such items available along with related reading materials as a complete kit.  A sample kit might include a breadmaker with a book about bread and the cultural traditions surrounding different types.  A selfie stick kit might include a book about photography on a smart phone.  At this point, we have an old flip camera, a calligraphy set, an automatic breadmaker, and a cake pop maker.  These items were brought in from home or purchased from a local Goodwill.  We’ve also reached out to our school Parent Teacher Student Organization for gently used goods.

In order to promote this effort, we will have our interns create a promotional Coming Soon poster and broadcast classes may help us with an informercial.  My co-librarian, Erica Thorsen, came up with the wonderful idea of demonstrating the use of the products in our library.  During long lunch, she suggested we actually bake bread in the machine and discuss how students and teachers can borrow from the AHS Library of Things!  We are still in the process of collecting materials but hope that we can come up with at least a dozen items from the wish list to initiate this project on or by April 1st!



2 responses to “Library of Things: If you build it, will they come?

  1. I like this idea a lot. There’s quite a lot of materials on Tool Libraries — policies, procedures, and so on. Let me share some resources:

    As always, the trick is to provide the right combination of hands-on training and hands-off “figure it out for yourselves.” The idea of doing regular demonstrations in the library itself is brilliant. It’s also useful to supplement the individual tools from the physical collection with relevant how-to books from the book library — you’re more likely to have a successful experience with a sewing machine, for example, if there’s someone who’s worked through the 2-3 basic books in the library, who can show you how to set up and trouble-shoot the machine, and who can help you when you get stuck on step two of project six in the “Sewing 101” book.

    But more than all of that… your library/school staff need some training in being Makers themselves. Having the tools is wonderful, but a beginner often needs someone to connect to who is interested in it at an above-rudimentary level. We didn’t replace our Shop and Home Ec teachers when they started retiring 20 years ago… and now we need their skills again! Which is the business I run now — consulting and workshops for restarting shop/home ec programs from scratch, with existing personnel. You can do it with a library of things or a library of tools…. but it’s easier with people who can connect you to the work because they’ve done it themselves.

  2. Thank you for sharing these resources Andrew! My colleague and I will look at them next week. I guess we’re wondering if any schools have tried this idea within a school setting. I’m wondering about their policies and the feedback they’ve received from the students. We have several maker tools at our school already, and we have a sewing machine as well! The sewing machines saw a lot of use and we quickly learned about the pros and cons of beforehand training versus jumping on and just exploring the tool. The items in this part of our collection will be for overnight checkout but for a shorter time frame than other circulating items. We’re still sorting through ideas but it doesn’t seem like there are many public school libraries circulating these items yet. If there is another school out there, we’d love to connect.

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