Reduce, reuse and share: Library of Things lends mix of items –

Posted: February 20, 2020 at 9:42 am

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DURHAM Imagine being able to borrow a cot for house guests, a highchair for visiting grandkids, or yard games for a party, then returning them for reuse and not having to store them.

Amy Goldberg does and that's the premise of her "Library of Things," which she envisions as a place for locals to donate things and their neighbors to borrow them as needed. Examples of things include slow cookers, pasta makers, horseshoe games, power tools, camping gear and all the stuff stowed in closets, basements and garages. Goldberg cited shared karaoke machines, walking canes, serving trays, punch bowls, massage balls, label makers, shop vacs and waffle irons.

Her insurer told her the only things she can't loan, for liability reasons, are chainsaws and ladders.

"What community does not need this?" asked Goldberg, a Durham resident who hatched the plan while living in Newmarket.

The Portsmouth-based GoodWork, a nonprofit incubator to support startup nonprofits, recent announced it selected Goldberg's Library of Things plan as a beneficiary. GoodWork describes the Library of Things as "a centralized location where people can donate underutilized items to share with others who might not have the space to store things, the money to buy them, or the need to use them all the time."

Goldberg said when she was told GoodWork will help her move her concept to reality, "I honestly thought I was on 'Candid Camera.'"

It's an extension of the sharing economy, an ecological initiative and a way to economize. To highlight the need, Goldberg reports the average power drill is only used for 30 minutes.

She has worked in the communications disorders field and as a cranial sacral therapist. Throughout her life, Goldberg said, if a friend or neighbor was painting or cleaning, she'd offer to help.

"I'm from the South, it's what we do," she said. "Need a truck? I have a friend whose cousin has one."

A few years ago when she helped an exhausted neighbor clean her children's rooms, while they were at summer camp, Goldberg said, the neighbor paid her for her labor. She said she never thought someone would pay her for that and it led to her starting an organizing business. Through that work, she said, clients purged all sorts of perfectly good things she began collecting in her basement. At the same time she began keeping a "pledge book" of things neighbors and friends said they'd loan or borrow to track her concept of a library for such items.

"People would say, 'Come to my storage unit and take it all,'" she recalled.

Others would report cleaning out parents' homes and telling her it was all destined for a dumpster, if not rescued.

Goldberg said her Library of Things plan was put on hold when she moved to Durham. Then last fall she submitted her plan for the University of New Hampshire Social Venture Innovation Challenge, for which she was a finalist.

"Not a single person I talk to thinks this won't work," Goldberg said. "Do we really need every house in the state to have a big plastic bowl in case they're having watermelon at a cookout?"

Goldberg imagines the Library of Things charging a small membership fee and also having a "skill share component." That would involve volunteers showing borrowers, for example, how to use a sewing machine, or a set up a borrowed tent.

Now looking for a Seacoast location to launch, she imagines a space energized by other activity and not "not in a back closet."

"I can attest to you, there is no limit to the number of items people want to get rid of," she said. "I see building a shared community resource around these things in every community. It's for everyone."

With the backing of GoodWork, she said, "I feel confident we'll be able to make a good sustainable model that can be replicated."

More information about the planned Library of Things is available at

The Portsmouth Public Library has a list of "other things" available for borrowing including an Orian Starblast Telescope, a gift from the New Hampshire Astrological Society that can be checked out for a week at a time, with instructional information. The library also loans a Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor, which is used to determine how much energy appliances use and help make decisions about reducing use and cutting cost. There's an Operation ID Engraver Kit for loan, to mark personal items for identification in case of theft. The Portsmouth library also loans a sun lamp and a portable LCD projector.

Strathams Wiggin Memorial Library also has a telescope donated by the Astrological Society, as well as a microscope, LCD projectors and digital recorders. Portsmouth's Tom Cocchiaro said the Astrological Society has donated 175 telescopes to New Hampshire libraries.

The Harvey-Mitchell Library in Epping loans Halloween costumes and the Mary E. Bartlett Library in Brentwood loans a punch bowl with glasses.

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February 20th, 2020 at 9:42 am

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