Library of Things promotes community sharing

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Photo by Garrison Oosterhof

On Saturday Feb. 24, the KW Library of Things opened its doors to the public for the first time. Partnered with Extend-a-Family in the Waterloo Region, the library operates out of a small space in Kitchener.

For a $40 annual fee, individuals within the community are given a membership to the program, which will then allow them to borrow important items — generally high-cost, low-use items — that may not be worth the enormous investment.

Each item is borrowed for a week at a time. These can include everything from camping equipment to power tools and even chocolate fountains.

Devon Fernandes, a graduate student at Laurier and co-founder of the library, developed the unique spot as part of his study practicum. What began as a 200-hour project quickly exceeded the limit and expanded into a full-blown, full-time project, culminating in a space where community mem-bers are given the opportunity to better share the resources of their community.

“The average person uses a drill for about 11 minutes in its lifetime, so the rest of the time it’s just sitting, collecting dust,” Fernandes said.

“When I tell people that, they realize, ‘wait, I have tons of stuff in my house that I don’t use all the time. Why can’t we just share these items communally instead of me just kind of hoarding them to myself?’”

This is the ethos of the library: to create a space where resources are utilized to their full potential, allowing a larger group of people to participate in activities — camping, hosting dinner parties, craftsmanship — where the required equipment may be too costly to justify.

The library is user friendly, and attempts to facilitate to the needs of all kinds of patrons, especially through their website kwlot.ca.

Amid the buzz of the library’s small space, packed to the corners with bodies, they received a fair number of signups — more than 35 — throughout the morning and were presented with a plaque by Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.

“We have an online inventory similar to any public library where you can view our items, see what’s in stock,” Fernandes said.

“Some of our items actually have videos that go along with them.”

This can obviously get difficult, because use and practice with so many of these items may not be straightforward.

With such a disparate range of products available, a disparate range of resources are required. Along with the videos and the manuals, knowledge-sharing creates the opportunity to promote the communal aspect.

“We’re really seeing it as a democratic thing and we’re hoping that members will teach each other,” Eli Winterfield, a community development connector with Extend-a-Family, said.

The library itself is heavily based around the community: Juanita Metzger, the coordinator for the library, cited how it can help encourage less consumerism.

“I already support sharing of items,” she said. “That’s sort of how people in our neighbourhood operated. We share a lawnmower and gardening equipment … so it’s already something that I do in my life and so it’s something that I would like to see other people explore.”

Equitability is one of the most fundamental features of the library. For those who cannot afford the $40 yearly cost, subsidized memberships are also available.

“All the proceeds go to support individuals facing barriers to employment while working in the library,” Fernandes said.

Amid the buzz of the library’s small space, packed to the corners with bodies, they received a fair number of signups — more than 35 — throughout the morning and were presented with a plaque by Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.

For those interested, the library is open on Saturday mornings, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m..

They are always looking for new members or for donations. It is located on 91 Moore Avenue in Kitchener.

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