Need a power tool or baking pan? More communities developing ‘Library of Things’ as free resource

BROOKLINE, Mass. — A trip to the library traditionally has been to borrow a book or a video.

Today, it can be to get camping gear, power tools, or even a sewing machine.

Many local libraries are expanding their collections and creating what’s known as a “Library of Things”.

“A number of libraries have a Library of Things,” said Amanda Hirst, director of libraries in Brookline. “It caught on quite quickly and has become a trend.”

In the shadow of books, a Brookline’s Library of Things is a place to find just about anything, from a caulking gun to gourmet baking pans.

And like a bestseller, these items can be checked out for free.

That’s good news for someone who might have a small household project and need a hammer for a short period of time. Even a cheap one can cost $20 or more at a hardware store.

Ditto for a set of screwdrivers, which can run upwards of $25.

“I think it’s a natural extension of what the library offers,” explained Hirst. “In the past it was physical materials such as books, music, audio books and now we’ve expanded our offerings into actual objects that people can use at home. All of the things, you know, that people may want to try before they buy.”

The website for the Watertown Library of Things is like a visit to William and Sonoma, with dumpling makers and food dehydrators available to take home for free.

In Plymouth, a popcorn maker and a posthole digger are part of their collection.

Needham patrons can sign up for outdoor gear like binoculars, a bird watching kit, and a dome tent that sleeps six.

“It’s really an exciting time for libraries,” added Hirst. “We’re thinking about how people live their lives. You may not have all the space in the world to keep a tent or a backpack, and we’re just trying to be there for our community and make sure that our resources and offerings are staying relevant to people’s lives.”

If a person is so inspired, a ukulele is available in Brookline. And in Needham too!

Hirst said patrons are delighted to have access to these different types of things. “They wish they had heard about it sooner.”

In Brookline the most popular item in their collection is wi-fi hotspots.

Another item in constant demand is a very high-end telescope.

Camping gear in the summertime is also very attractive to the library’s patrons

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