NEWBURYPORT — The city is planning to open Sharebank Newburyport, a loaning library of miscellaneous household items that’s free for residents, and officials have created an online survey to help them shape the program.
Sharebank Newburyport will be a website where residents can reserve and borrow household items that aren’t consistently used so that they don’t have to purchase and store them at home. Website users will then pick the items up from one of several storage locations in city-owned buildings.
The two-year pilot program is being led by Christin Walth, who is also project manager for the city’s Recycling IQ program. Walth emphasized that the project’s goal is to help residents cut down on waste associated with buying things.
“Our ultimate goal is to decrease waste,” said Walth. “Not everybody has to own their own leaf blower and all the packaging that comes with it. This way, you could use one for eight hours, return it, and then the next person could use it for eight hours.”
The new survey consists of six questions, and is intended to help officials gauge interest in Sharebank Newburyport, to learn about how often residents predict they would use the program, and to get suggestions for items residents would be interested in borrowing.
“We’re hoping people will take this survey so we can justify the resources for this project and show that it has a good benefit for the community to promote a sharing economy,” said Walth, adding that she hopes the survey will receive 500 responses by next weekend, or at least by its June 30 deadline.
She said Sharebank Newburyport could be up and running sometime this fall, if residents express enough interest.
Sharebank Newburyport is being funded by a $41,000 Sustainable Materials Recovery Program grant from the Baker-Polito administration.
Walth said she and other city officials have spent the past few months clearing the project’s legality and conducting research on similar programs established in other communities.
As she explained, Sharebank will be a hybrid of similar “library of things” programs and “tool libraries” that have been implemented in other cities and towns. A “library of things” is city or town-run, and lets residents check out non-traditional items from their community’s public library. A “tool library” is not run by community officials, and lets residents borrow items from independent locations.
“We want to do things beyond just tools. We want to offer all sorts of things,” said Walth, noting the program’s diverse list of potential items, which include coffee mugs, GoPro cameras, snowshoes and more. Residents would also be able to rent items such as silverware or plates to help them cut down waste when hosting parties and other events.
“We want it to be utilitarian, to not cause deprivation and for people to have a really good experience,” she said.
To use Sharebank Newburyport, residents will have to sign up for a free membership on the program’s website. They will then be able to borrow items for up to two weeks, though loans may be extended.
Walth said that while the program would be free, residents would have to bring their own disposable supplies when needed.
“For example, you’ll have to bring your own lamination sheets when using a laminator, and we won’t be responsible for filling gas cartridges,” Walth explained. “The durable good will be there to use, but any other supplies that go with it will be the responsibility of the borrower.”
To take the Sharebank Newburyport survey, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ShareBank_Newburyport_Introductory_Survey
Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.