Fix It Yourself

Repair events at the library promote sustainable living

May 1, 2023

Gabrielle Griffis

Are you sure it’s time to throw out those pants with a broken zipper or that bike with the squeaky pedals?

Sustainable living involves making changes in your everyday life to ensure that you leave the planet a better place after you’re gone. These changes can include recycling and reducing waste, of course, but also repairing rather than replacing.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain shortages, interest in sustainability and self-reliance topics has risen considerably among library patrons. Libraries of all types are enhancing programming by embracing these timely subjects and providing much sought-after instruction.

Repair events, which can be hosted at libraries, help foster a culture of social and environmental stewardship by offering a space where people can preserve resources and consider the cost of manufacturing and the impact of waste. At these events, people bring their broken items, and repair coaches provide instruction on how to—hopefully—fix them. In this hands-on, intergenerational setting, participants learn new skills and connect with community members while keeping items out of landfills.

Budgets for repair events can vary widely, from costing nothing by relying on volunteers and donated resources to investing in tools and other resources. These events can be small or large, depending on the venue space and coordinating capacity, and can focus on specific items or a range of repairs. Programs are typically three hours long, with one hour before and after for setup and cleanup.

Repair events foster a culture of social and environmental stewardship.

Recruiting repair coaches should be done at least two months in advance of the program. A meeting should be held with coaches to go over objectives and the tools that volunteers or the library will need to provide. At the repair event itself, coaches can guide participants on how to troubleshoot, disassemble, and hopefully fix their malfunctioning belongings.

Here are a few tips to prepare for repair events at your library:

  • Decide what type of event you want to host. This may affect what you call the event and how you market it. Organizers can title the program “Repair Event” or can use the names and free resources provided by organizations like Repair Cafe and Fixit Clinic.
  • Assess your program space. Determine the size of your event by the size of the room you’ll be using and the number of electrical outlets available. Smaller libraries can host smaller pop-ups or host events outside if the weather permits.
  • Delegate responsibilities. Staffers should divide roles for a successful event. Figure out who will handle publicity, repair coach coordination, refreshments, setup and cleanup, greeting participants, tool inventory, and event documentation and social media.
  • Find partners. Local schools, conservation and recycling committees, and makerspaces can help with your event. Cosponsors are not necessary, but having a coordination team will make planning and execution easier.
  • Advertise the event. Start your marketing efforts at least one month in advance. Fliers, press releases, social media posts, and PSAs on local television and radio stations are great ways to get the word out. The types of repair services being offered can also be advertised. Events focused on mending specific items can be a helpful way to teach concentrated fixing skills.
  • Consider creating a tool library. If your repair event generates a high amount of interest, a tool library might be a good next step. These can be great resources for the community and for future repair events.

Adapted from 25 Ready-to-Use Sustainable Living Programs for Libraries, edited by Ellyssa Valenti Kroski (ALA Editions, 2022).


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