Audio Recorders to Zucchini Seeds
Building a Library of Things
by Mark Robison and Lindley Shedd, Editors
May 2017, 271pp, 7x10
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-5019-6
$65, £49, 55€, A93
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5020-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Would your library benefit from offering a collection of items such as tools, seeds, or cooking equipment along with traditional media? This book explains how and why you could do so.

This exploration of the range of options for a "library of things" collection demonstrates what has been implemented successfully and offers practical insights regarding these nontraditional projects, from the development of concepts to the everyday realities of maintaining these collections.

What services libraries provide and how they function in their communities is constantly being reconsidered and redefined. One example of this is the trend of experimenting with building circulating collections of nonliterary “things”—such as tools, seeds, cooking equipment, bicycles, household machinery, and educational materials—by drawing on traditional library functions and strengths of acquisition, organization, and circulation. Audio Recorders to Zucchini Seeds: Building a Library of Things enables you to consider the feasibility of creating a specific type of “thing” collection in your library and get practical advice about the processes necessary to successfully launch and maintain it, from planning and funding to circulation, promotion, and upkeep.

This contributed volume provides a survey of “library of things” projects within the United States, from both public and academic libraries, offering real-world lessons learned from these early experiments with nontraditional collections. The authors offer practical insights from their projects, from the development of their initial ideas to the everyday realities of maintaining and circulating these collections, including cataloging, space needs, safety concerns, staff training, circulation, marketing, and assessment. The contributed chapters are organized thematically, covering “things” collections that encompass a wide variety of objects first, followed by collections with a community-building focus (seeds, recreation, tools) and those that serve an educational purpose, such as curriculum centers, children’s toys, or collections that support a university curriculum. The last section addresses collections that support media production.


  • Documents the plan and launch phases of nontraditional collections that will help readers who are entertaining the idea of starting their own "things" project
  • Explains how these collections support the mission of a library: supporting teaching, serving a unique population (such as small liberal arts colleges), and providing for a community need
  • Spotlights some of the most frequently cited nontraditional collections, including the Tool Lending Library at Berkeley Public, the Library of Things at Sacramento Public, and the unique holdings of Alaska Resources Library and Information Services (ARLIS)
  • Presents contributions from both public and academic librarians, representing libraries ranging from the small to the very large
Mark Robison is assistant professor of library services at Valparaiso University in Indiana. In his role as first-year experience librarian, Mark is often thinking about the library's ever-changing role as a resource, an educational force, and a space. His personal experiences with lending nontraditional collections include board games along with the supplies for button making and constructing pillow forts. His research interests include first-year student success, transfer student success, and the assessment of services.

Lindley Shedd is associate professor and media services coordinator at The University of Alabama Libraries, where she manages the unit that circulates multimedia production gear, such as camcorders, lighting, and audio gear. She is a library futurist, namely serving as one of the 50 worldwide experts identifying educational technology topics for the NMC Horizon Report > Library Edition. Shedd has published and presented at the national level on topics that include Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) for libraries, integrating multimedia services into the curriculum, circulating equipment selection and management, copyright and fair use, and student recruitment programs in libraries.


"This interesting book provides information and case studies on the 'things' movement in libraries library collections centered around lending items other than books. . . . I haven't seen a book like this before, so I highly recommend it for all libraries, given that the case studies include public, special, and academic library examples."—ARBA, November 1, 2017

"With this well-written, insightful work, editors Robison and Shedd examine one of the newest trends in librarianship: the things collection. . . . VERDICT A valuable resource for public or academic librarians. Could also be useful for LIS students."—School Library Journal, February 1, 2018

"This compendium of experiences offers a clear and practical set of examples that can inspire librarians to develop their own community-based library of things."—Booklist Online, March 7, 2018
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