Libraries as Early Model for Sharing Economy

It was refreshing to read an article on HuffPost about the increased use of public libraries now that the sharing economy is a "thing."

As noted in the article, public libraries were sharing before sharing was cool, lending books and other goods to people who, in some sense, collectively own them.

“We’re the original sharing economy,” Rivkah Sass, executive director of the Sacramento Public Library in California. “Libraries have been doing this for a really long time — lending art, cooking utensils, tools."

The "library of things" is starting to take hold stronger than ever before. Public libraries across the country are housing so-called “libraries of things,” from which people can borrow useful items for a short time instead of buying them outright. This is a largely hidden feature of the growing “sharing economy,” but it may be poised to take off as many Americans become increasingly concerned about waste and environmental sustainability. 

“We were looking at the generation coming up that doesn’t necessarily want to own things,” Sass said. “They don’t need a pressure cooker to store on a shelf and gather dust.”

“I really see this as a much bigger societal trend,” Sass said. “We’re seeing a shift in what’s important to people, and that’s where this comes from.” 

It's exciting to see how libraries are continuing to transform and redefine themselves while relying on foundational principles. “I’ve been a librarian for 35 years, and this is the most exciting time I’ve ever experienced,” Sass said. “There’s something about it right now that’s really resonating with people. I think that’s the coolest aspect.”


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