Library of Things

It’s interesting to think about how successful programs from the Academic or Public Library world might be applied to the independent school library. There’s the Maker Movement, of course, we have green screens and A/V editing, but one thing that we haven’t talked about yet on Independent Ideas is the ‘Library of Things’ concept. It was Dartmouth’s tool library that caught William Kamkwamba’s attention and convinced him to come study (and tinker) there. The Sacramento Public Library is lending things like sewing machines, Go Pros, board games, and crafting supplies. Others are lending scientific equipment, tools, musical instruments, and wifi hotspots. Check out this excellent NYT article for more.

Last year we purchased two GoPro cameras, head and chest straps, and of course, the beloved selfie stick, and the queue to check them out has never waivered. The swim team uses them to capture underwater footage to use in their end of year awards banquet movie. Class historians take them on retreats to capture live shots on ropes courses, an aspiring filmmaker is using one as part of her Capstone project and they go on field trips where students are studying neighborhoods and conducting interviews. Currently, one is on the Galapagos Spring Break trip, capturing footage of biodiversity that most of us in Troy, NY will never have the chance to see for ourselves.

Blue footed booby anyone?


“Blue Shoes” by Michel is licensed under CC by 2.0.

The other GoPro is strapped to the chest of a girl as she hikes Peru and will likely capture the plunge of her scheduled bungee jump, as well. We may have to take Dramamine before we watch that footage.

Before you ask, I do not have a formal “if you break, lose, or if this is stolen, you will replace this” document that I require students to sign, though I probably should. We talk about the cost to replace and I do email them essentially saying the same and ask them to reply and agree. So technically, I do have something in writing. In fact, there was a sailing incident over the summer with a rogue gust of wind, and a GoPro is at the bottom of a deep lake somewhere.  It was replaced before school began.

I’m not sure how far we will venture onto the “library of stuff” path. With just two of us, there are a lot of pieces to juggle (the GoPro adapters, chargers, memory chips, and accessories alone require much documenting so that we can be sure that we get each complete set back), but we are exploring and it’s fun to think about!

An even easier idea that we are implementing this spring is the “Book Club in a Bag”. Not a new idea, public libraries have been circulating them for years, but we wanted to give it a go. We have created 4 “kits” to encourage pleasure reading, to plant seeds for future book clubs, and to get some really good books into the hands of our students.

To date, we have 4 bags. We have filled them with five copies of the following titles: Dumplin by Julie Murphy, Cutting for Stone by Abraha Verghese, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, and And the Mountains Echoed Khaled Hosseini. We are including discussion questions to get the group started, recipes or activities inspired by the book, and referring them to any supporting online material. They can use the material or come up with ideas of their own. Each book is numbered using a sticker, but the bag itself is what we’re cataloging. The student who checks out the bag is responsible for returning it as a complete set. We think that this will work especially well because we’re a boarding/day school, but really, I think that this could work in any school! All kids crave autonomy, but upper schoolers are primed to try their independence on for size, with little, if any guidance from adults in their lives.

I’m interested to hear if you’re into the ‘Library of Things’. Has your school tried the Human Library concept? What are you circulating (other than books, laptops, or eReaders)? Please comment below so that we can all benefit from your wisdom and exerience!

4 thoughts on “Library of Things

  1. We would like to check out portable CD players to our LS students who seem, less and less, to have CD players at home. Does anyone else do this?

    • I check out small cd players as well as mp3 players for mp3 audio books. I’m a K – 4 campus so I do have parents sign a letter letting them know that if their child checks these items out and they get lost or damaged, they are a little expensive to replace. Don’t want to catch any parents unaware.
      I love the book club in a bag idea. I will be implementing this!

  2. I love this idea! Thank you for sharing. I’m also inspired to start a girls/boys Book Club in a Bag for my lower school students this summer. Each year I have a few parents contact me about my recommendations for appropriate books so that they can host a summer book club for their child and a few friends. This would be a great way to have a “canned” answer.

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