Looking to borrow a metal detector? How about a ukulele? Have you tried the public library?
In 2022, the Needham Free Public Library joined public, academic and special libraries worldwide in establishing a Library of Things. The growing trend began with a grassroots experiment in London in 2014 and has promoted the idea of a sharing economy. Patrons can borrow, use and return tools, toys, musical instruments and even specialized cookware. Many public libraries in Massachusetts have similar collections.
The library website (needhamlibrary.org) has a complete list of items to borrow, including a sewing machine, magnifier glasses, a light therapy lamp, CD, record and cassette players, a webcam, binoculars, a six-person dome tent, a ukulele, a microscope, a metal detector, a paper shredder, a Craftsman toolkit, walkie-talkies, and a Blu-ray player. The most popular item — the one with the longest wait time on reserve — is the Nintendo Switch gaming device. Another favorite is a Toniebox, a screen-free digital listening device for young children.
Inevitably, the Library of Things has a To Be Repaired shelf. Library staff report the karaoke machine and the camera drone are often on that shelf.
Patrons can find a display of available items near the circulation desk, or they can make a request online. Most items are available for one week with optional two-week renewals.