Tool & Toy Libraries
Many people think that if you provide (lend) things for free, people will stop buying them.  BUT, the KEY is to provide the RIGHT things for free.  Just as book libraries created a publishing industry (and more educated people), tools provide people in a community (who would otherwise not get the chance) the chance to create wealth for both themselves AND others.  People who want and can afford to buy tools buy them anyway (when people own their own tools, they usually make sure they are well taken care of and immediately available).
Just as tool libraries equilize the opportunities to create wealth for adults, toy libraries 'equalize' kids opportunities to learn and grow into (from my perspective) cool adults.  They remove some of the 'my parents couldn't afford that for me' and 'I didn't get that' syndromes that exist in communities, particularly after holidays.  But the trick is to 'trick' kids into learning by providing toys that keep them learning.  I myself have always thought that (well, not always . . . but over the years I've thought about it alot) if you have kids sit down and go over the directions and manuals that come with toys, you'd teach them a lot.  I've also thought that when kids aren't reading instruction manuals and labels and advertisements and product reviews as part of English classes and even math classes, we're putting them at a disadvantage.
My local library provided me with a K'Nex marathon weekend where I spent many hours building and tearing down models that ran off a solar panel and a small motor (even at night under a lamp and under a leafy shade tree).  I followed a whole book of their designs.  My thanks to the library, the K-Nex designers and the people who supported the library's purchase of this 'toy.'  I don't plan to do this again (but I wanted to do it once and learned a LOT--about what might be possible to teach kids--what kids might learn if they just set about putting models together on their own--and what adults such as myself could learn as I was building models of adult things I had already used). 
My local library might be 'short' on adult tools but I borrowed a line logger numerous times:  a plug-in device that measures the amount of energy appliances use and lets you know the voltage your power company is providing.  You get billed for kiloWatt-hours.  The hours are how long you use the appliance.  The Watts are the volts (from your outlet) times the amps (the current your appliance needs to operate).  If Watts equals volts times amps, the power company records kW (kiloWatts) which are merely the Watts divided by 1000 (otherwise the numbers would get too big for your bill).  The line logger told me ALL these things . . . directly and indirectly.
 Copyrights © 1998-2010 by Lisa L. Osen