Why do Thing Libraries matter?

The Thing Library is coming! We have been dreaming and talking about this for a long time, and now it’s oh so close to being reality.

With the opening of the London Thing Library, Ontario’s newest thing library, some people wonder “why exactly do they matter?”. That is an excellent question that we plan to answer for you! Thing Libraries, sometimes also referred to as tool libraries, have began popping up more and more around the world.

As of 2019, there were over 400 thing libraries across the globe. What is believed to have been the first thing library has been around for almost 80 years, at the Michigan Public Library in Grosse Point, Michigan. While the concept of thing libraries have greatly evolved since then, the main idea behind them stays the same! To learn more about the history of thing libraries, check out this amazing article written by Tom Llewellyn, titled The Evolution of the Tool Library. Llewellyn talks about the evolution of thing libraries, his personal experience in the industry, and more about the history of thing libraries.

So many people, from low-income residents, to students, to elderly folks, are unable to afford simple household items, from blenders to power tools, and so much more, because of inflation and the growing costs of living. Thing libraries work to provide these vulnerable communities an accessible and affordable means to access these items and complete these household projects, without the stress of breaking the bank. In the age of climate change and the ecological justice movement, thing libraries have become ever more popular because of the work that they do to promote a circular economy whereby users take-make-reuse, and repeat. This reduces household clutter and increases space for people who need it, but also works to reduce our ecological footprint and waste that contributes to our landfills…which are filling up at incredible speeds.

While the premise of a thing library is to borrow household tools or items, in an effort of saving money and reducing overall waste in the process, they are much more than that. On top of waste reduction and affordability, thing libraries, such as the London Thing Library, host workshops and seminars.

These workshops, seminars, and community events, such as DIY or right to repair workshops, are extremely important because work to educate community members on their right to do it themselves, but also how to complete these repairs themselves, all while saving money and helping the environment.

Aaron Perzanowski, in his book The Right to Repair: Reclaiming the Things We Own, talks about how to empower yourself, fight back against corporations and companies that seek to prevent everyday citizens from completing repairs on products that they already own. Thing libraries are social enterprises that work to improve, empower, and support the communities that they exist within. 

Thing libraries are multifaceted organizations that do not exist for the sake of money or profits, but because they seek economic and ecological justice and want to make a change in their local community. To learn more about the right to repair, other Canadian thing libraries, and more, stay tuned and visit our blog and social media pages! We are so excited for the launch of the London Thing Library and can’t wait to see you.

April 19, 2022 — Heenal Rajani