Libraries have circulated books since the 19th Century, and, as AV materials became available, so did the ability to circulate music and movies (in whatever format was currently available). In the past decade, however, there has been an uptick in libraries circulating materials considered “non-traditional.” These "Libraries of Things" help make library patrons' day-to-day lives easier by providing access to items that they might not be able to purchase due to financial reasons, space restrictions, or simple practicality.
To get started with a Library of Things, complete a community needs assessment and identify areas of interest within the library's service area.
Fund the collection by using community donations, applying for grants, or requesting local businesses or companies to sponsor a collection. When purchasing items, make sure they are durable and can withstand repeated circulation. Remember, you don't have to build the collection overnight. Start small, and let it grow organically.
Finding space in the library to house these new items doesn't have to be difficult. Depending on the collection, consider repurposing other library furniture, using rolling carts to keep the space flexible, or even holding the items behind the circulation desk or in storage and having photos of the available items that people can use to decide what to checkout. A simple filing cabinet or binder with plastic holders is a great way to store spare parts, extra paperwork, and any rules or directions to keep the "extras" from spilling into the rest of the work space.
To promote the collection, consider a slow rollout that let patrons use items in-house. The library can do this by hosting programs around the new items such as storytimes showcasing outdoor adventures kits or a DIY class to get people comfortable with new craft items. Displays, word-of-mouth, and social media are also other easy ways to promote the diversity of items the library has in its collections.
Below are additional resources to help get your Library of Things started:
Below are items to consider adding to the library's collection:
Explore the collections below to feel inspired!
Broken pieces and replacement parts don't have to be a worry either with a few simple tricks:
Board Game Collection Resources:
To catalog items, all you need is a simple record:
Checking in this new collection will take a bit longer than your other library materials. However, the following tips may help the process go smoother:
If you add a Library of Things to your collection, you may need to modify your existing policies to cover any loss of items, loaning permissions, and returning procedures.
For example, you may consider not allowing Things to be loaned via ILL or requiring that they are returned to the desk instead of the book drop. Additionally, you may consider having patrons sign a waiver that releases the library from all liability for use of the item. This should include verbiage that librarians are not required to know how to use the equipment and cannot be expected to provide instruction or training.
If you're concerned about theft, you may consider the additional amendments to your policies:
Policies of Libraries of Things from around ND and the US:
Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.