British Columbia

'The Thingery' aims to bring new kind of library to Vancouver neighbourhoods

A new pilot project is trying to take Vancouver's sharing economy to the next level by creating a library that offers a variety of different items — basically everything.

Why buy when you can borrow? That’s the philosophy behind Vancouver’s new sharing initiative

An artist’s rendering of what a Thingery would look like in a Vancouver neighbourhood. The idea is to repurpose shipping containers to house a community borrowing library of tools, sports equipment and other shareable items. (Kara Burman)

A new pilot project will give Vancouverites the chance to take home everything from hammers to snow shoes, free of charge — as long as they return it within a week.

The Thingery is a new sharing project that set up shop in East Vancouver Saturday for one day to gauge the public's interest in a permanent library that would offer books, tools, sports equipment and more.

Founder Chris Diplock hopes it's here to stay. His long-term vision includes shipping containers nestled within Vancouver neighbourhoods that act as local lending libraries of "things."

"We've got some types of lending libraries currently in Vancouver," Diplock told The Early Edition guest host Stephen Quinn. "The tool library, our book-lending library. But we really wanted to expand what we can share through our lending libraries."

Not just what we share, but how we share, says Diplock

Diplock says he learned through research with The Sharing Project that people prefer to share when there is a social connection between borrower and lender — and that's why he wants to bring this project to the community level.

He's gauging interest with a series of pop-ups in Mosaic Creek Park using a shared van before he commits to getting the shipping containers, which can cost up to $10,000 to buy and retrofit. He'd also need to sort out a permit from the city.

"We're just starting those conversations," he said. "But a big piece of why we're doing this engagement is to bring that community support to the table, which we think is going to be a huge asset."

What kind of 'things' to expect

So far a few dozen items have already been donated, including snow shoes, rollerblades, hockey sticks and golf clubs.

"It's not uncommon for people to say 'I got all this stuff, I want to put it to good use. Let me throw it into this community lending library and see people use it,'" he said.

His experience working with the Vancouver Tool Library showed him there's actually a very low rate of people who borrow and don't return items. Eventually, like the tool library, The Thingery will be membership-based.

Membership fees would go toward a staff person in the container helping borrowers sign things out.

Quality, not quantity

Saturday's Thingery pilot was run out of a Modo car share van parked at Mosaic Creek Park in East Vancouver. The next pop-up is this Wednesday, Aug. 31 from 6-10 p.m. (Chris Diplock)

Diplock says a big lesson the tool library taught him was that people working together tend to pool their funds together to buy better equipment.

"If I go buy something I'm going to buy the cheaper version. If we're working together we're probably more likely to buy a better quality tool. A little more expensive," he said, adding that higher quality goods means a longer shelf-life for the library's items.

That pooling of resources means less demand for goods production, he says. In the end, it means fewer dead batteries ending up in landfills.

After Saturday's event, the next Thingery pop-up is happening at Mosaic Creek Park on Wednesday, Aug. 31 from 4-10 p.m.

With files from CBC's Early Edition

To listen to the whole interview, listen to the audio labelled: Why buy something, when you can borrow it? The spirit of the "Thingery"