Libraries of things

From EcoliseWiki


According to a recent PhD. research project on the libraries of things landscape in Europe, Libraries of Things (LoT):

are often founded by grassroot initiatives, act mostly on a non-commercial base and represent institutionalised lending opportunities physically anchored in the neighbourhood as opposed to online platforms. In a few cases, they are part of a communal book library or Goethe Institute. If not specialised on tools or sport devices only, they also offer kitchen stuff, camping and other travel equipment as well as toys. Lending usually functions similar to public libraries with membership fees and lending periods. Their inventory can be checked via web catalogues. The offer at hand depends on the concrete needs of their local users. Things which are in daily use or such which require strong hygienic care are not appropriate for these concepts.[1]  


Based on mapping, in situ interviews, a brief online survey, and analysis of media like brochures, websites and social media posts, several types of project and relationships with other types of initiative have been identified.[2] In terms of inventory there can be found: tool libraries (marked in yellow on the map below), thing libraries (mixed equipment, marked in blue), sportotek (cf. fritidsbanks in green) and some offer musical instruments, too, whereas in terms of organisation thing libraries can be part of a public library (marked in turquoise) if not community run on a voluntary basis. In a few cases volunteer agencies act as intermediaries setting up a lot (not differentiated graphically), too.

Related initiatives include free shops and swap shops, online platforms that enable sharing between neighbours (both commercially and non-commercially), mailbox stickers or communities like GEN that share (not only) material resources. Related in terms of do it yourself/community-led action are open workshops, fablabs and maker spaces (where tools can be used at the site) as well as community supported agriculture or food coops.


Libraries of Things and Tool Libraries in Europe

This map, gathered from online research using search engines and social networks. gives an overview of ongoing and currently dormant initiatives as of autumn 2018.

As the map creation platform used is no longer freely available, it cannot be updated as easily as before.

The group of German public libraries encompasses more examples than presented. Research has not been done for those kinds of libraries beyond Germany. About a dozen more bottom-up initiatives are planning to open in the near future (e.g. in UK and in Germany).[3]

Practical Guides

Several initiatives have recorded their strategies and experiences and shared them online:

Many established initiatives offer advice and support to those wishing to start new projects, when they have the capacity to do so.

Further reading: Jaik, Alexandra (2018): „Nutzen statt besitzen in Leihläden lokal gestalten“, in: Franz, H.-W./Kaletka, C. (Eds.). Soziale Innovationen lokal gestalten. Band 1 der Reihe Sozialwissenschaften und Berufspraxis, hrsg. vom BDS; Wiesbaden: Springer VS. S. 119-134.


  1. Jaik, Alexandra (2018): "Nachhaltige soziale Konsumpraktiken im Quartier am Beispiel von Leihläden", in: Hochschule Bochum (Hrsg.): Tagungsband - Erstes Symposium der Promovierenden an der Hochschule Bochum am 30.10. im Geothermiezentrum der Hochschule Bochum, Bochum. ISBN 978.-3-00-060976-3
  2. Jaik, Alexandra (2018): Teile(n) in Leihläden. Eine kleine Genealogie der Bibliothek der Dinge, in: soziologie heute (58), S. 31-34.
  3. Jaik, Alexandra (forthcoming): „Neue Handlungsweisen etablieren: Energieeffizientes Konsumieren in Leihläden realisieren – Eine Orientierungshilfe für Gründungsinteressierte“, in: Reicher, C. / Schmidt, A. (Eds.): Energieeffizienz im Quartier – Handbuch. Springer: Heidelberg.