Build a Library of Things

Akron Iowa farmers drinking coffee with the mayor

I like the idea of organizations coming together and collaborating, instead of always working in silos. How could you test out this idea in a practical way in your small town?

Build a Library of Things.

A library of things is a location where things you use rarely can be located, the community donates the things and you can use them on a checkout kind of basis. These items are things like tools, sewing kits or sewing machines, artsy things, electronics, gardening things, and so on.

Most of us when we hear about creating a library of things our mind goes right to the actual library. And we know that libraries are a great place for people to come together, people of all generations, capabilities, ways of thinking. But how is a library of things a way of convening and collaborating for people and organizations?

You may think you need to assemble a committee of nonprofit organization leaders and let them be in charge. They will gather and vote on the best ideas and determine, as a committee what kind of library of things is needed in your community.

There are a few problems with that way of doing things. First of all, who has time to serve on committees? Traditionally those folks are already overworked. Often they are part of the STP, the same 10 people.

What if you just started with a group of people who would like to do this kind of project?

In Akron Iowa, the retired farmers had moved into town and brought along their woodworking equipment. They put the tools in their garages. until the wives suggested strongly that they move those tools somewhere else. This group of farmers met every morning for coffee at an old hospital no longer in use. Being curious individuals they explored that building and realized there was a dry basement.

They thought the basement of that building would be a great space for all of them to bring their woodworking materials and tools. They got the proper permission and did just that.

Their goal was to be available to anyone who wanted to learn how to use the tools and make things. They now work with the shop teacher at the high school and students. They have helped locals try a project before investing in their own equipment. And they also make things for the community, like the signs at the edge of town that welcome visitors.

Is this convening or collaborating to better serve your community around a targeted purpose? Yes! These retirees are now more active in the community and see more possibilities of how they can serve. It’s how they found out about the need for new signage at the edge of town.

They created a Library of Things around woodworking.

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From Possibilities to Reality: Save Your Small Town with these Uniquely Do-able Ideas, Projects, and Success Stories

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