Would You Share Your Blender? The Kitchen Library Concept Bets You Will

Photo: XiXinXing/Shutterstock.

In answer to this story's headline, my answer would be no. I love my blender and use it daily (sometimes twice). When it comes to my blender, no way, no how am I sharing it. Glad that's settled.

But my waffle iron is a different story. I only use it a couple times a year; it spends 99 percent of its life sitting in a cupboard. Ditto for a number of other gadgets. In fact, I would estimate that about half of my kitchen machines only get occasional workouts. I use my toaster, blender, slow-cooker, stand mixer, and popcorn-popper (I love the air popped stuff) weekly or more, but the rest of it? Not so much. And really, the stand mixer and slow-cooker have only become regulars because my partner uses them to for his baking and stew/soup/chili concoctions; when I was on my own, I used neither.

Enter the idea of community "stuff" libraries, where useful objects are shared among a group of neighbors or friends. As part of a new, and rapidly growing movement, sharing has become less a weird "you must live in a commune" thing and more of a mainstream thing. It's sometimes called collaborative consumption, or the sharing economy, but it comes down to the same idea: We can have a lower impact and more money in our pockets if we pool underused resources.

The kitchen library is like the tool library (and all are based on Benjamin Franklin's once-derided idea of the book library), wherein garden tools and mowers, weedwackers and leaf-blowers are shared within a community — and sometimes this involves bigger equipment too, like table saws. Kitchen libraries mean you can get what you want — a waffle, say, without having to buy something you don't need .... namely a waffle iron you use rarely.

Dayna Boyer, founder of the Kitchen Library in Toronto, explains to the National Post: "I think a lot of people go on Pinterest and they create all of these boards of all of the things that they want to be making. [Our service is about] taking people that one step further, and giving them the resources they need to be actually creating the recipes that inspire them. I think of the kitchen library as leveling that playing field, giving everybody access to the equipment to make healthy meals and to do batch cooking, so that price and affordability and space aren’t a barrier for those things."

Checking out the Kitchen Library site, I immediately saw something my partner and I could have used: an electric frying pan. We tried to make doughnuts the other day (yes, inspired by a cooking site online!) and really wanted one for that project — but I thought buying an electric fryer for making one item a couple times a year at most would be wasteful, both financially and resource-wise. So, we tried to make the doughnuts on the stovetop and failed miserably, because we couldn't keep the heat consistent. But if we had a kitchen library in our town, we could have just borrowed one for our frying experiment.

Besides loaning out needed equipment (and, I'm assuming, making sure it is returned in a reasonable amount of time) the library ensures that the equipment is kept very clean, and in working order.

It's a great idea, too, because equipment could be maintained properly (how many homeowners do that?) and it could be updated when necessary, and not just because it's old, but because it's actually worn out. As a kid, I remember struggling with my family's recalcitrant mower that was at least a decade old when I started using it, and I had to coax it along for another decade before it was finally sent to the great lawnmower heaven in the sky.

Where can you find libraries like this in the U.S.? Not surprisingly, Portland, Ore., has one.

Would you utilize a kitchen library if your town had one?