This is an idea that has been simmering in my head for a long time, and now I've found that someone's actually implemented it for real! Introducing the Distributed Library Project
The Distributed Library Project is a library catalogue that allows anyone to nominate their own collection of books as a library, and themselves as a librarian. The software was developed intially in West America, see communitybooks.org . The London DLP is based at the UO in Limehouse, at the domains http://dlp.theps.net and dlpdev.theps.net.
The original blurb for the library is as follows:
The distributed library project is part of an experiment in sharing information and building community. Unfortunately, the traditional library system doesn't do much to foster community. Patrons come and go, but there is very little opportunity to establish relationships with people or groups of people. In fact, if you try to talk with someone holding a book you like - you'll probably get shushed. The Distributed Library Project works in exactly the opposite way, where the very function of the library depends on interaction.
I'd been thinking that something similar for us book-starved Singaporeans might be a good idea, but there were certain issues that needed to be worked out, e.g. how do you know your books will be returned? They solve this issue using a feedback system similar to that used on Ebay whereby borrowers who return their books on time and in good condition get positive feedback, and vice versa. They don't say anything about how books get from one user to another - presumably users arrange that between themselves. But anyway, it's a wonderful idea. I only hope that something like this can be implemented here, and save us all the horrible price of postage.