Linux, politics, and other interesting things
20 months ago I started the LUV Hardware Library . The aim of the project is to provide a repository of free spare parts for computers for the use of club members. People who have parts that are good but which they can’t use can donate them and others who need such parts can take them.
Some people have criticised my choice of the name “Hardware Library” because the word is associated with borrowing while with my Hardware Library it is expected that noone will return the item that they take. The Wikipedia page about libraries is worth reading, my interpretation of that is that the essential aspect of a library is that it is a public collection of items that are useful for study and that borrowing is just one thing that can be done. A book library could consist of a service of printing free books on demand (anyone could do this with access to The Gutenberg Project  and a printer) or of just making them available to download. Many libraries don’t allow books to be borrowed, they just allow them to be studied and copied in the library. Also every general public library has reference items that can’t be borrowed, it’s typical for a library to have a full encyclopedia which is not available to be borrowed. Also with the Hardware Library people feel obliged to give something if they take something (as happens with a geocache), so there is an issue of returning something.
My main aims with the Hardware Library were to save people money on parts and to help the environment by reducing the need to buy new computers when old ones can be upgraded and remain in service. My next aim was to help people learn about hardware by providing free parts, when a mistake has no financial cost people are more willing to experiment and will learn more. I believe that those aims have been achieved.
One thing that surprised me is the social aspect that developed. I had expected that most people would just find some parts that they need and not look at it again for some months. I had also anticipated that some people would poll the Hardware Library every month in the hope that a part they needed might appear. I didn’t expect that people would look through it every month because they just like looking at old hardware. I also didn’t expect groups of people to hang out by the Hardware Library to discuss various issues related to PC hardware and Linux.
During the breaks in the main meeting the location of the Hardware Library often becomes a focus for discussions of various issues related to Linux and hardware. I think that this is really advancing the aims of LUV  and I think that members of other LUGs should experiment with similar projects.
Starting this didn’t require any special skill or authority. I just started bringing a briefcase full of parts to meetings and offering them to whoever was interested. Any member of any LUG can do the same. To start something like this you wouldn’t even need a collection of parts, you could just bring a box and ask for donations.