Every City Should Have This Ingenious "Library of Things"

It's happened to us all. You're planning for some big project and suddenly you're in need of a power drill... Or kitchen stand mixer... Or hiking gear. Now, you could just shell out for it, but when are you going to use it again? Enter Leila, a genius little "borrowing shop" in Berlin that saves you money while putting the dusty things in your closet to good use.

To borrow from Leila's library of board games, beach tents, saws, wine glasses, and more, you just need to drop off an item of your own. The little donation-run shop on Fehrbelliner Strasse currently boasts 400 members, according to a profile in The Guardian.

Leila is practical but also political for co-founder Nikolai Wolfert (above). He started the shop after the Green Party lost in the 2011 Berlin elections, and Leila became a very local way of making a political statement. Since it launched in June 2012, it has inspired similar borrowing shops elsewhere in Berlin as well as in cities like Kiel and Vienna.

That begs the question why—in the sharing age of Lyft and Airbnb—something like Leila hasn't taken off sooner. In fact, lots of startups both present and past have tried some web version of Leila. There's the Amsterdam-based Peerby, which has a friendly little gnome as its icon. When I searched my neighborhood of Berkeley, though, a power drill was the only item available to borrow within five kilometers. There's also NeighborGoods, which pushes the money-saving angle quite hard.

Every City Should Have This Ingenious "Library of Things"

There's all kinds of reasons a particular online community may or may not reach critical mass, but I think the presence of a physical shop actually makes a difference, too. The shop physically tethers everyone in the neighborhood together, creating a sense of community.

Sure, storing everything there may be less convenient. But exchanging tools at a neighborhood shop somehow feels better than showing up at some stranger's house. [The Guardian]

Top image via Poltiliri/YouTube