The libraries of things are spaces for borrowing objects for sporadic use with significant environmental and social benefits.
Since Nusos and Rezero inaugurated the first in the country, other initiatives have proliferated. Many of them advised by the two entities.
Libraries of Things are one of those brilliant and necessary initiatives that are here to stay. It is an idea with a long history of experiences in the international arena and which is now spreading here. There are five big reasons to open a library of things and they are both environmental and social.
1. To facilitate an efficient use of resources and to avoid waste
We have more than we need. Homes accumulate objects that are rarely used but take up space and cost money. To give a paradigmatic example, a drill is used on average 13 minutes during its useful life. What’s the point of having one in every house?
Accumulating objects in homes that are used only sporadically and will become waste is a clear inefficiency of the current consumption model.
It is an unsustainable waste of resources on a finite planet immersed in an ecological crisis. The production of all these objects mobilizes energy and resources. In addition, collecting and managing all the waste associated with this consumption and production model also involves energy expenditure and has significant environmental impacts.
With the Biblioteca de les Coses of Sant Martí, 230 loans of objects such as steam cleaning machines, ladders, wheelchairs, strippers and drills have been facilitated in the las year alone. This has led to the saving of 932 kilos of waste, not counting all that is avoided by giving a second life to objects that are donated for the catalog instead of being discarded at the green point.
2. To reduce emissions
Behind every consumer good there are emissions of gases with a greenhouse effect: they are generated in the extraction and transport of raw materials, in manufacturing, in transport and also in the collection and treatment of the waste associated with the product. Therefore, every time a library of things makes a loan, it contributes to the mitigation of the climate emergency to the extent that a purchase is avoided.
Reducing the purchase of objects means reducing the emissions associated with the entire life cycle of a product.
At the Biblioteca de les Coses of Sant Martí we have designed a system for calculating the CO2 equivalent emissions of our activity. Each object, according to the type of object and its weight is attributed an equivalent amount of CO2 saved. Thus we were able to estimate that in 2022 we avoided 2,681 kilos of CO2 equivalent.
3. To promote the culture of access to use as opposed to the culture of possession
A library of things is a unique space to contribute to the necessary change in consumption habits. Even today, despite the evidence of the ecological crisis, the generalized response is to satisfy it by purchasing an object when faced with each new personal need. From libraries of things this awful association is broken, highlighting the important advantages of renting. They are spaces from which the idea is that the important thing to satisfy a need is to have access to the object, not to own it.
Also, with a program of workshops and activities they can become a center for the promotion of conscious consumption in a broad sense. For example, repair or waste prevention workshops can be organized.
One of the principles of conscious consumption is to avoid shopping by renting.
More and more people are joining this consumption model. The number of users of the Biblioteca de les Coses of Sant Martí has not stopped growing since it opened its doors in January 2020. After three years of life more than 500 people have already registered as users, despite the start marked by the pandemic and the socio-demographic characteristics of the area where it is located,
4. To facilitate access to all citizens to objects that allow meeting needs and improving the quality of life
The purchase prices of many of the products in library catalogs are a deterrent for people with less purchasing power.
Low rents break the barrier that purchase prices represent for some citizens.
It is true that, with the exception of some orthopedic products and air conditioners, most objects in the libraries of things could not be described as necessities. Now, being able to use a sewing machine to mend a piece of clothing, a steam cleaning machine to do a thorough job at home on Saturday or a racket to play a tennis match are examples of how some objects contribute to improving the quality of people’s lives.
5. To strengthen community ties
One of the characteristics of the library model of things proposed by Nusos and Rezero is its community dimension. It is not a rental service, it is a catalog of common objects of shared ownership. As the governance of the project is also shared the neighbors can have a say in decision-making.
In the same way, the creation of links between the people who approach the project is promoted. While there are people who limit themselves to using the loan service, others get involved in the work days that are organized. Everyone is invited, with various tasks so that everyone can contribute to the maintenance of the catalog. More or less informally, thing libraries can also become spaces for sharing knowledge as well as mutual support.
A joint catalogue of objects is a tool to face social and environmental challenges collectively.
One of the slogans of Sant Martí is “We share objects, we share stories”. And it’s not just words. In the Ca l’Isidret neighborhood center (where the Biblioteca de les Coses is located), many things have happened, such as a volunteer fixing the glasses of an elderly person or a user explaining to another user how a sewing machine works.
How to have a library of things in your neighborhood or municipality
So, if these new spaces are proliferating it is because there are good reasons to open a library of things. In addition, Nusos and Rezero, have designed a service with the experience and knowledge acquired in the creation of the Biblioteca de les Coses of Sant Martí. This service is aimed at local bodies and entities that want advice and technical support.
If you also want a library of things,
February 21, 2023
Photographs: Natxo López and Morena Bellini (collaborators of the Sant Martí Library) and Marta Amat/Rezero.
21st February 2023
Fotografies: Natxo López i Morena Bellini (col·laboradors de la Biblioteca de Sant Martí) i Marta Amat/Rezero.