Built off the model we established in the wake of the BP Oil spill which allowed volunteers to map over 100 miles of coastline using only three DIY aerial mapping toolkits, Public Lab is working on launching a comprehensive tool lending program. However, we currently host and partner with other organizations on providing four informal lending locations where you can check out Public Lab tools:
Somerville, MA (hosted by Parts&Crafts): http://somervilletoollibrary.com/
New Orleans, LA: Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Brooklyn, NY: Please contact email@example.com
Portland, OR: Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Chicago, IL: Please contact email@example.com
Typical informal hand-off practices in Public Lab:
What we envision
Though informal lending libraries currently exist at Public Lab offices, during 2015 and 2016 we will formalize the process, allowing community members to check out equipment either in person or via an online database, request technical support through our peer-to-peer mailing lists and research community, send equipment for calibration and verification, and submit samples for processing and storage. As we take on more distributed projects and engage in tests that benefit from independent verification, it behooves us to formalize how we share tools, samples, and competence.
The lending library will act as a Netflix for Public Lab tools (the old Netflix, where they mailed you stuff). It will consist of a central hub staffed by Public Lab in Portland, OR, as well as distributed satellite locations around the US from which community members can check out equipment for short-term use. The Portland hub will be the central storage location for kits and replacement parts, and will support the satellite libraries and users by distributing postage, mailing labels, and packing materials, and protecting the anonymity of participants when necessary, so that tools are accessible and libraries are well-stocked. The Portland hub will also provide expertise to lending library participants, including tool calibration and sample processing and storage services. Satellite libraries will be located in large metro areas and host smaller but still comprehensive collections of tools and guides, allowing in-person access and support to the widest number of people and organizations. Leveraging discounted nonprofit mailing rates, members not located near the central hub or a satellite library will be able to request materials from the nearest available location via a custom online database and have samples processed and tools calibrated remotely. A small membership fee will help cover a portion of postage, library maintenance, and overhead costs in an effort to create a viable but accessible model.
Research note from Organizers conversation: http://publiclab.org/notes/liz/07-18-2014/lending-libraries
OpenHour on Lending Libraries: http://publiclab.org/wiki/openhour#February+2nd+2015:+Lending+Libraries