Merriam Webster defines 'library' as "a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale" or "a collection of such materials" as the first definition. The second definition is the topic of this week's post as well as an ongoing series of "collection[s] resembling or suggesting a library." There are many library collections that comprise physical materials. These are considered libraries because they function as a library, a "collection of materials that are kept for use but not for sale." Museums tend to be look don't touch to preserve objects for posterity, while libraries (and archives) are for the most part hands on working collections.
[I wrote this post before the news broke about the ATF losing 1,400 guns in an unrelated project, but still wanted to feature the tracing library despite the news.]
First up, the ATF Tracing Center's gun library, which was featured on Minnesota Public Radio in 2011. The tracing center is, among other things, a resource for law enforcement to trace guns used in crimes. The center receives over 300,000 requests to trace in a year, and keeps a library of over 12,000 firearms as reference for their work. This picture taken from the article is one of many fairly impressive shots of the extensive collection. Check out the article for more photos. Lucky the person who scored the job as library staff here.
Another common library of physical objects are tool lending libraries. The Berkley Public Library tool lending program. Their program began in 1979 through a grant and is one of the earliest public library tool lending programs.
There are many tool lending libraries in the United States, and Share Starter provides a handy online guide for starting a tool lending program in your area. For more heavy duty projects, there are also subscription services such as Tech Shop where you can gain access to very expensive equipment for those projects you just can't do at home. Here's a shot of the gardening tool collection at the Fletcher Free library in Burlington Vermont (taken from this Wikipedia Article)
There are many more libraries of physical objects outside the standard print, audio, and video media collections than can be covered in one post. These libraries will appear as an ongoing theme of libraries without books, keep checking back for more special libraries to love.