The KW Library of Things opened in February 2018 to let members avoid having to buy and store rarely used home appliances. The library has always been an effective tool for sustainability and waste reduction, but it is now taking on another initiative.

A 2011 study by Statistics Canada found that the employment rate for Canadians with disabilities was 49 per cent, leaving more than half of Canadians with disabilities without a job. The KW Library of Things is working on a solution to this problem with their new Supported Employment Program.

The program is a practicum that hires those who have faced barriers to employment for a four-month period to help them gain experience, skills and income. The program has been made possible by a Trillium Grant created to support community development.

The library offers patrons home appliances from chocolate fountains to sheet sanders. Membership costs $40 a year and allows full access to the catalogue. The library is a project of Extend-A-Family, an organization that seeks to improve the lives of people with disabilities and the community at large through efforts to increase inclusion and belonging.

“The way we would describe our broader community development work is built on something called ‘asset based development,’ the notion that everything the community needs is here within the community. We just have to help each other figure out how to share appropriately and contribute our gifts and skills to our neighbors in mutually beneficial ways,” says Extend-A-Family’s Executive Director Al Mills.

The practicum librarians assist and register patrons, run workshops and maintain the tools and appliances the library offers. Each librarian also has their own personal project. One woman who wants to supplement her accounting diploma with work experience is gaining experience through handling some of the library’s finances. Another librarian is organizing a Jane’s Walk, a citizen-led tour through the city.

“Some of the barriers people face could be based on stereotypes or assumptions that it’ll be a [large] investment [or] that it’ll be a lot of hard work to have this person [on staff]. Maybe the thought process is ‘Well maybe it’s kind of charitable in nature that I’m offering employment to this person’ and that’s not accurate. The folks that are participating through this practicum have something to offer of real value,” said Mills.

Library of Things Coordinator Beth Weisberg added that this program fulfills Extend-a-Family’s philosophy of belonging and inclusion.

“It’s a chance to be in the community and doing things, not just being passive or being given a small task, something token to do-it’s real work,” said Weisberg.

The library is open Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings.