Jed Aitchison, Project Manager at the Library of Things, asks why, in an increasingly expensive, carbon conscious and cramped world, anyone should have to buy something if they can borrow it instead.
Well the answer is you don’t have to. The Buy Nowt LS6 – Library of Things is the solution to this problem. It’s like a normal Library but instead of lending books it lends out the kind of stuff that is used infrequently but would otherwise have to be bought e.g. camping stuff, gardening and DIY tools, holiday items, unusual cooking equipment, board games etc.
For so long we’ve existed in a world of you need something, then you buy it (as affordably as possible), use it then either it breaks or it gets put somewhere and never used again. The Library has a different model, where you borrow something instead of buying it. Perhaps sometimes we don’t realize just how much stuff we accumulate and don’t use frequently.
There are important benefits to a Library of Things – firstly, saving carbon (from single use packaging of the item to transport from the manufacturing country), money and space in increasingly small homes. The Library does also lend out items to help you maintain those you already have, to keep them running longer, such as sewing machines and tools.
By reducing the cost of items we can make things more accessible for people than before. Camping and all the equipment for a family can be several hundred pounds and be prohibitively expensive, but by borrowing instead people can afford to have that adventure. DIY and gardening equipment can add significantly to the cost of a makeover project, or even just maintenance.
By borrowing from us, community groups can more easily start up. Instead of every group needing to buy folding tables, or gazebos, badge makers and loudspeakers, they can borrow them from us. This means people’s voices are heard more easily and positive changes are made.
Start up businesses or entrepreneurs can also borrow equipment from us while they’re starting out, such as tools to fix up their venue, or an entrepreneur can borrow a carpet cleaner as part of their cleaning service or borrow tools and get paid to do DIY or gardening.
The Library is about reducing the barriers to entering into worthwhile activities by making them cheaper. The knock on effects of that will be extremely exciting in terms of businesses started up, voices being heard, communities being strengthened, houses being insulated, and mental health improving. Think about how book Libraries democratized information and made it so much easier for people to access the factual information they needed; how the world of fiction was opened up to anyone any everyone. The same thing can happen with items now.
Why buy a lot when you only need a few?
One of the things that a Library can do is change people’s thinking on consumption so that their first thought isn’t where can I buy this but where can I borrow this instead. There are so many things in life that we have become used to having to buy ourselves, but we actually don’t use very often. we can change people’s mindset on consumption. We also have a section called take a screw, leave a screw. We’ve taken this concept from the popular ‘take a penny, leave a penny’ used in shops in North America. This means if you had a bit of change left, you’d leave it in case you fell short…… We’re doing the same with DIY consumables – screws, washers, nails etc
Why should we have to buy an entire bag of screws when we just need a few ? Or If you have a few bits and bobs knocking about from a project, why should they take up space in your cupboard doing nothing, when you could donate them to the Library so someone else can use them?
Volunteering and/or Donating Items
We’re always looking for more volunteers as librarians or technicians, graphic designers, or to help us with our accounting. We’re also looking for donations of items to the Library and that info can be found on our website and social media.
We have a volunteering profile on Becollective and an account on the Leeds Beckett volunteering site and the Leeds university volunteering site for any uni students.
The Library is at the Headingley Methodist Church on Chapel Street in Headingley (on the corner of Otley Road and North Street). We are open 4-6pm on Friday and 1-4pm on Saturday. The Library currently has over 500 items, almost all of which have been donated by the community. Please go to our website and browse to find out what we have.
Photograph: The Library of Things and some of the Team.