Drills, vacuum cleaners, diving fins, dryers, sewing machines, extension cords, mixers, bread makers, crutches, wheelchairs, bicycles... Although it may seem like it, this is not the list of a department store product catalogue. Nothing is further from reality. These items are part of the catalog offered by a library. Yes, a library. But not just any, but the Biblioteca de les Coses, in the Sant Martí district of Barcelona, which opened its doors in 2020 -a few days before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic- and which lends almost everything except books.
Two entities, Nusos and Rezero, were the ones that promoted this initiative, which was already present in some Anglo-Saxon countries, but not in Spain. "We think it could be a very tangible way to change consumption habits with a clear environmental impact," Eli Miralles, project coordinator at Nusos, explains to La Vanguardia.
But how does it work? Well, like a library to use, but without books. The user - who does not have to pay any fee for being a user - can borrow any of the items in the catalog and use it for a week. The price of the service ranges between 1 and 5 euros depending on the product.
Almost 500 items make up the library's catalog – 90% come from donations and 10% are acquired by the project. Among those that are most in demand is, explains Miralles, a portable stereo with a large speaker, and built-in microphone, and with a bluetooth connection. “Wheelchairs and sewing machines are also very popular,” she adds.
As a curious product, they have a ham holder. “When it arrived, we weren't very sure what to do with it, especially since we understood that people only used it for Christmas. We thought that he would not have a way out, ”confesses Miralles. But after exposing it in the window, which is renewed every quarter, they got a good surprise. "Since we promoted him, every two by three he is out, on loan," he admits.
In the words of the Rezero technician Laia Tresserra, the library intends to break with the association that is made “between a need and putting our hand in our pocket to satisfy it”. "It is about remembering that there is another way to satisfy needs and that to do so it is not necessary to own objects, but to have access to them."
This change in habits, he defends, brings with it a whole series of benefits, including environmental ones, one of the reasons why the promoters launched the initiative. “Every time we avoid a purchase, we are saving the CO2 emissions that would be associated with an object. Our estimates are that during 2022 we will save the equivalent of 2,681 kg of CO2 emissions and 932 kilos of waste, ”he says.
The library, located in the casal of Ca l'Isidret, opens its doors two afternoons a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.). The premises are given by the Taula Eix Pere IV who, together with a group of neighbors, joined the initiative promoted by Nusos y Rezero. The Waste Agency of Catalonia and Barcelona City Council also contribute, providing economic support.
Maria, its only worker, receives the help of volunteers to attend to the users, almost 400 at present. Anastasi, 64 years old and a resident of the district, lends a hand selflessly "from day one". "I do all kinds of things: from going to look for an object that they donate to us, to setting up shelves, cleaning objects, putting them in order or being in contact with users the two afternoons a week that we are open."
He says he is satisfied with the work he does. And not only because of the values that the initiative represents – “reuse, waste reduction, reduction of CO2 emissions…”), but also because of “contact with users”.
Jaume (63 years old) is one of them. He has used the service three times. In all of them he got hold of carpentry items: perhaps a stripper, to remove paint from doors, for example; What if a jigsaw...
Rate the experience as “very good”. "In my case, taking these tools on loan helped me to know if I would be able to use them correctly," he argues. “If I see that I don't handle myself well, then I call a professional to do the job, and I will only have invested three or four euros in having tried it. Imagine if I had bought the tool, with the cost they have, and then I see that I don't handle it well...".
Jaume is from the district, but the library has users from other parts of the city, also from outside it. “Half of the users are residents of the district, almost the other half are from the city and there is even 6% who come from outside Barcelona. In other words, there is demand”, emphasizes Miralles. So much so that similar initiatives are already being developed in which, in some of them (up to seven), the Biblioteca de les Coses participates directly.
Nusos and Rezero work together with three municipalities that have opted to have a library of things in their municipalities. This is the case of Santa Margarida i els Monjos, Mediona and Tiana, which are scheduled to open in 2023. The Cooperasec cooperative is also working to open the doors of its lending space, Bibliocoses Poble-sec, in this neighborhood of Barcelona.
On the other hand, the Consortium for the Treatment of Urban Solid Waste of the Maresme has seen in the libraries of things an opportunity to raise awareness of the problem of waste among secondary school students in the region. That is why Nusos y Rezero has been commissioned to adapt the project to be able to develop it in several institutes. Work is currently underway to implement it in three: Domènech i Montaner (Canet de Mar), Euclides (Pineda de Mar) and Jaume Almera (Vilassar de Dalt).
“One of the things that we wanted to demonstrate with the Biblioteca de les Coses was that the model could work, and the figures confirm it,” Laia Tresserra argues. “Given the opportunity, people are encouraged to make this change in habits,” she concludes.