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Borrowing tools from the public library

Jonas Söderholm (University of Borås, Borås, Sweden)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 11 January 2016




The purpose of this paper is to investigate tool lending library patrons’ perception of their tool borrowing, in order to explore the role of a public lending service in the context of their lives. It addresses the research question, why do patrons borrow tools from the library?


A case study was conducted, consisting of semi-structured interviews with patrons of a tool lending library. Led by a phenomenographic approach, the interviews focused on participants’ recounted experiences. Transcripts were structured into major categories and underlying themes. Findings were discussed from a perspective taking departure in Wiegand’s notion of “the library in the life of the user,” and summarized with regards to sustainable community development.


Participants are found to talk about their tool borrowing from two main viewpoints. First, reasons for making the decision. This involves weighing practical considerations, e.g., cost, storage, access, and frequency of use. It also includes ideological motivations, and sympathy with the concept. Second, effects of their borrowing, interpreted as how it enables them. This enablement includes inspiration, learning, support to self-employment, and strengthening of community. Patrons focus on local aspects of social and economic development, rather than global or environmental motivations.

Research limitations/implications

A single and in part unique setting was studied. The findings provide foundation for a developed discussion on the societal role of public libraries providing “non-traditional” materials such as tools, with particular regards to community settings and sustainability.


Addresses knowledge gaps on borrowing and tool lending libraries.



Söderholm, J. (2016), "Borrowing tools from the public library", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 72 No. 1, pp. 140-155.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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