Lending libraries find continued success in East Bay

February 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
There is a popular new way to save money and get what you need at little or no cost. Everything from books to gardening tools can be practically free.

We all share things with people we know, like neigbors. Now, just imagine if you know a lot more people. How much more would be available to us then?

Every day is tool time in the City of Berkeley. Its Tool Lending Library is believed to be the oldest in the country. Approximately 2,500 gardening and home repair tools are available for check-out for free by Berkeley residents.

Edmund Broussard has been using it since it opened in 1979.

"I don't know of too many other places in the Bay Area have a place like this," he says.

In fact, other communities worldwide have tried to duplicate it.

"We get inquiries from other countries, from other states, and it hasn't been successful in very many places except here," says supervising librarian Jeri Ewart.

John Buckman takes the concept of sharing one step further. His website, Bookmooch.com, got its start in the Bay Area and allows people to share books for just the cost of mailing.

"You're all mooching off each other and it's actually fair. So, the idea behind book mooching was exactly that, not buying stuff, but sharing things more communally," he explains.

El Cerrito musician Hanneke Van Proosdij say she uses the site practically every day.

"There is definitely a big community behind it. People not only share their books, but they also share ideas about what to read, or they share experiences, if they read a book they want to talk about it," she says.

"Craigslist was born here. And, then you see other sharing businesses like Citi Carshare and like Zip Car, very, very popular in San Francisco," says Michal Strahilevitz, a marketing professor from Golden Gate University. "So, I think it's an area where people like the idea of community. They like the idea of sharing. They're more trusting of strangers."

In a sense, the entire community benefits. The Tool Lending Library in Berkeley sprouted from the idea of helping people beautify their homes and their neighborhoods.

"People believe in us and they actually believe, and they actually take pride in the fact that they can beautify their homes," says tool lending specialist Robert Young.

The Tool Lending Library is part of the Berkeley Public Library System. Users must be at least 18-years-old and sign a waiver releasing the city of any liability for injury. Late fees are much higher than the typical book fines

"It's a great extension. I think it expands over. First, it's both books, CDs, videos, and the tools, and it's a great thing for the community to share because it's something you don't need every day. So, you can share it," says Joshua Abrams.

Users of Bookmooch.com get points for every book they give to others. Then, they use those points to get the books they want. Bookmooch.com has 160,000 users offering to give away 3 million titles.

"Often, a lot of peoples' garages are filled with tools, or books or all sorts of things and it makes sense to pass them on, especially if you can't stand to throw anything away," Buckman says.