When is a library not a library? When it’s a…

… a Kitchen Library.
Am I the only librarian who experienced a strong reaction upon seeing the website for The Kitchen Library?

My immediate librarians reaction was a strong “NO that is not a library”. That was my knee jerk as I looked through my Twitter feed and saw a number of Tweets about this ‘kitchen library’. And my reaction gradually grew stronger as I clicked through and read article after article about this lovely little ‘library’. I said to myself, tweeted even, “technically, this is not a library”. It is a premises lending out kitchen utensils. It’s a cute idea. But it is not a library. Lending does not make a library! To be a lender does not a library make.

And then I began thinking – why is this not a library? And then I did as I often do with concepts I want to understand better – I looked at the etymology of the word on a few Etymology Dictionaries.

I see that it is a “place for books, late 14c., from Anglo-French librarie, Old French librairie “collection of books” (14c.), noun use of adj. librarius “concerning books,” from Latin librarium “chest for books,” from liber (genitive libri) “book, paper, parchment,” originally “the inner bark of trees,” probably a derivative of PIE root *leub(h)- “to strip, to peel” (see leaf). The equivalent word in most Romance languages now means “bookseller’s shop.” Old English had bochord, literally “book hord.

Just as I thought – books are an essential part of it. Of course working in a twenty first Century library I have to take some liberties with the etymology and move beyond this. It is not the book per se but the information contained within the book that is important. The book is but a portal. It is the information that we access through this portal which is important – it is the information which is important. This of course, coincidentally and conveniently allows me to include all manner of information – music, data, software, film etc etc. All information portals – all material that information can be gleaned from to improve and increase the knowledge of the person accessing it.

And though I allow myself to take some liberties with the etymology of the word I really cannot allow myself to extend it, or bend it, as far as a kitchen utensil. I cannot convince myself that kitchen utensils can form a library. Books about Kitchen Utensils yes, but kitchen utensils themselves, no!

Or maybe I’m just overreacting…



  1. I reacted similarly about 30 years ago when I read about tool lending libraries.
    Another way of looking at it – if an agency (esp a nonprofit) lends itself (pun intended) to the building up of a community through sharing of resources, then I’ll let it call itself a library. Sometimes definitions and etymologies evolve in astounding but good ways.

  2. With the way the world is turning nowadays, I believe anything!! But it’s an interesting one… Libraries need things like this at least it gets us talking about libraries which should really happen more and at a more diverse level!

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