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Building and managing your lending library inventory.

Building your inventory

  • Put a call out for donations in your community through ads or host a donation drive
  • Offer a free or reduced membership if people donate items to the library
  • Ask local businesses if they are able to support with items or a financial contribution
  • Apply for local grants to purchase newer and more expensive items
  • Attend garage sales and look for items

Managing your collection

Keeping track of items

You will need find a way for your lending library to keep track of all items and a system for recording what is borrowed. It’s important to have this created right from the start to track and organize items as they come in. The inventory system can be as low-tech as giving every item a number and recording items borrowed in a binder, spreadsheet or a white in-and-out board.

If you are in an area where literacy or language may be a barrier, consider having photos and simple instructions of each item in your inventory to easily explain to members and track items. It is also important to have a simple system to let lenders know when items are due back. This can be as simple as a date of return slip, an email reminder, or courtesy phone call.

Lost and damaged items

It might be useful to record the original price of items so if something gets lost or damaged you know the cost to replace it. A list of items needing to be cleaned and maintained may also be helpful for your volunteers.

Item maintenance

Some thought should be given to the maintenance of your collection, especially when deciding which items to include in your library. As maintenance costs vary from item to item, you need to be careful not to spend your budget collecting items that you can’t afford to keep maintained.

We recommend setting a small budget aside to clean, maintain, replace parts or upgrade items. Performing routine maintenance checks and cleaning of items will ensure they are kept in good condition and extend their lifespan. As most maintenance is done by library volunteers it is important to search out skilled volunteers who understand your collection and can maintain and repair items. Keeping your items in good shape will ensure members continue to borrow from your library.