Libraries Embrace the Sharing Economy

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The term “sharing economy” became popularized during the Great Recession but libraries have used a sharing model for millennia. Today, libraries intersect with the sharing economy in a number of ways, from breaking barriers in the types of resources exchanged to the use of technology to broker the sharing. Whether economic necessity or a new form of community building, the sharing economy shows no signs of slowing down. How this plays out in libraries across the country is a reflection of the diverse needs and wishes of the communities served.

Much is shared at the Washington DC’s Dream Lab: working space, technology tools, business expertise. Individuals or groups using technology to develop new business ventures may use the Dream Lab in exchange for one hour of technology related programming or instruction per month. Dream Lab, a co-working and collaborative workspace, supports the development of small technology business and harnesses the skills of these entrepreneurs for the benefit of the larger library community.

The sharing economy looks quite different at Fairfield Public Library, where the commodity is seeds. At Seed-to-Seed, patrons are invited to take seeds from the library to plant in their own gardens. Gardening experts and library users have identified seeds that work well in Fairfield’s climate and location, improving the odds of success for new gardeners. In return for borrowing the seeds, patrons are asked to harvest seeds from the new plants and share some of them back with the library.

In a clever and economical response to the basement filled with stuff we never use, Sacramento library patrons voted on what items they would like to have available for borrowing and, thus, the “Library of Things” was developed. Although the sharing model more closely resembles a traditional library borrowing model, the “Things” are anything but traditional: patrons can check out a ukele, a sewing machine, crafting tools, or a bike repair kit.

Are you sharing in innovative ways at your library? Let us know! Email: futureoflibraries@ala.org.

Learn more about how libraries are innovating in response to societal trends on the Libraries Transform website.

Visit ALA's Center for the Future of Libraries for an indepth view into the impact of societal trends on libraries.

Center for the Future of Libraries

The Center for the Future of Libraries works to identify trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve; promote futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians and library professionals shape their future; and build connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues. Learn more at www.ala.org/libraryofthefuture.

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