I recently read this article, which details a ‘borrowing shop’, or ‘library of things’ in Berlin. The idea behind the project is a repository of items which the local community can use. This has several advantages over the traditional model of ownership, a few of which are:
* Save money: rather than each member of the community buying an item which may be expensive, only one or two are required to buy it. The others can then use it. For larger items, a group may pitch in together and buy it between them
* Reduce waste: the resources required to manufacture, transport, maintain, clean, etc. an item are huge. Why have multiple copies of the same thing, when one can be shared between many?
* Build communities and social meaningful relationships: Each of us buying a copy of some gadget or other leaves us isolated from our neighbours, rather sharing one or more opens the possibility for relating to and socialising with our neighbours and other community members.
One of the most telling statistics from the link above is that about the average power drill being used for 13 minutes in its life. This is certainly a factoid, and may not even be true, but it highlights an important point: a large number of people do not need access to a given tool or other item 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in fact we may only need it once a year for a few minutes. In which case, sharing that item between a group makes far more sense than each of us owning a copy.
Based upon these ideas, we are starting a Library Of Things in Auckland, it will be known as “Auckland Library Of Things”, or ALOT. The group involved in the project are loosely affiliated to Tangle Ball, Auckland’s maker space, although this will be a separate project. We have been discussing the project for several weeks, and have made a number of decisions, although these are not set in stone:
* The library will be decentralised; items will not be stored at a central location, rather at the homes/offices/etc. of the members. This reduces costs associated with storage, allows a quick start to the project and scales with members. It also reduces the possibility of poor quality and useless being dumped at the Library.
* All members will function as librarians, and all will function as patrons; no-one will be granted arbitrary privileges or access to resources which other members cannot access
* Any item can be added to the Library; whoever adds the item will also store it, until someone else requests to use it.
* Low barrier to entry; we wish to not deny access to anyone, all should have opportunities to take part.
Initially, we are continuing to talk through the values and logistics of the project, while putting together a website. This website will allow members to see what items are available in the Library, make requests for items, and other logistical tasks. We are mindful that some do not have access to the internet, and/or the necessary skills, so are discussing and investigating ways to not deny access to people in that situation.
The software is being developed here, all are welcome to join in, make suggestions, patches, etc.
A website will be launched in the near future, with details on physical meetings and other information.