Prior to 2015 there were no Libraries of Things (LoTs) in the UK. By the end of 2019 there were 12 of us and we all met up at the inaugural ShareFest. In 2020 I am going to try to visit every one of them, ask them a few questions and promote them in this series, ‘Lots of LoTs’!
First up, in January I visited SHARE Oxford and spoke with Maurice…
When did you form? Why? -What was the inspiration behind it?
“We formed in the spring of 2018 and launched in Feb 2019.
“Alex was working with someone who mentioned the concept. She had been working on a circular collective taking things people were throwing out and trying to make use of them. It was as the project she was working on began fold that Alex was told about the idea of a Library of Things so she suggested it at a Community Action Group (CAG) meeting. It was there I expressed my interest in being involved. We started collecting things, found a space, began recruiting volunteers and launched!”
How is it going?
“It’s going OK. We’ve had a general upward trajectory with plateaus and rises. Since launching we’ve upgraded our space. After certain moments such as that upgrade as well as after gaining publicity and running events we take upward steps before it plateaus again. We’ve just had a meeting about making the next step up. Everyone involved is satisfied that the concept works and we are all committed to it. We’re happy and positive about the future. A little while ago we were still uncertain but we now feel we have shown proof of concept.”
What are your 3 most borrowed items?
“Pressure washer, pressure washer and pressure washer! Also drills, sanders and, seasonly, gazebos”
Which item have you found to be the most surprisingly popular?
“The heat gun!”
And what is the most unusual one or most unusual request you’ve received?
“The flexible drill extension!”
What are your hopes for 2020 and beyond?
“A year from now we’d like to see the continuity of our regular repair cafe, have the library open more hours and days than at present, have more volunteers to make that happen and see an increase in membership and borrows.
“So we’re aiming for slow, steady, sustainable organic growth. We all get on so well here, so part of main vision is to maintain the existing operating practice and relationships between one another.
“We also hope to have gone beyond our current ad-hoc methods of doing what it takes to make it work to being well-oiled and self sustaining.”
SHARE Oxford Library of Things can be found inside Makespace Oxford at 1 Aristotle Lane, Oxford, OX2 6TP.
This month SHARE Oxford are celebrating their first birthday, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY! 🥳
Coming up I’ll be featuring the other 11 existing Libraries (Bath, Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Frome, Guildford, London, Plymouth, Stirling and Totnes) and all others who launch from here on in. This series began with 12 and I predict we’ll soon have lots more LoTs!
Luca, 10, from Frome will be borrowing items from SHARE:Frome and submitting video reviews. Before he gets the first one in we should introduce you to Luca … and what better way to do so than via his application for a Blue Peter Green Badge:
Hello, my name is Luca and l am 10 years old. I live in Frome, Somerset. I like I.T./gaming, and recycling by making cardboard box forts.
I am applying for a Green Blue Peter Badge because I have been to many SHARE Repair Cafes and I also borrow things from the SHARE Shop instead of buying them.
The SHARE Repair Cafes are events where lots of people come to get their broken things fixed by people with skills. So far, they have inspected over 200 items, weighing nearly 400kg and saving over £9000 if these broken items had to be replaced new!
Its very useful because we don’t have to bin as many things which is good for the planet and you don’t have to go and spend more money than you need. Also you get to learn life skills there and meet new people.
The first Repair Cafe I went to was to fix my domino train (a tiny train that lays dominoes in a trail/line so that you can knock them over).
It had stopped moving and I thought I would have to immediately bin it. Mum told me about the SHARE Repair Cafe and that I could try to fix it, so I said, “yes I would like to go and do that”.
So she took me and Paul fixed it (and I learned some skills). There was a string stuck inside the mechanism and we just unscrewed it and took the string out and the train worked again!
There was some free food there as well. Like cake!
After that, we fixed our Acer laptop. It kept on overheating so the man took it home and the next time we saw it, it was working faultlessly! He told us that he had replaced the thermal paste for us. I learned that computers have thermal paste to stop them from overheating.
2nd Repair Cafe
Then, the next time, was the worse of all times of the broken things. My only working headphones wire had snapped – dun dun DUUUUUN!
So, we took them to the Repair Cafe and a man soldered it together with his soldering equipment and he showed me how to solder. Soldering is like melting a bit of metal to join wires together to make a circuit. It’s practically like making glue out of metal – just stronger.
Afterwards, Aliss showed me how to make a lunch bag for fruit out of recycled tents (that she had scavenged from Glastonbury festival).
The tents would have gone to landfill if Aliss hadn’t saved them. So we were upcycling them.
Also, Aliss showed me how to use a sewing machine. So, I learned a new life skill. Now, I put my snack in the bag I made every day and take it to school.
Aliss also taught my Mum how to fix her dresses on the sewing machine and how to make bunting out of the tents for my den in the garden.
I think that it’s an amazing thing that they have done making a SHARE Repair Cafe and Share Shop because it is going to make everyone’s eco footprint go down. Also people will learn life lessons like how to fix their stuff next time. Also its a good way to meet loads and loads of new people from throughout Frome and you might be surprised and make a new best friend.
Aliss also runs the “Light the Night” lantern parade in Frome which is where everyone parades through town with lanterns in the dark with samba music and the Christmas lights get turned on. Aliss taught us how to make lanterns with willow branches, glue and tissue paper so we can join in.
Aliss also came to our school and I luckily got to help make the massive angel lanterns to be taken along at the front of the parade. I helped to make the head of one, it was difficult because we had to position the willow rings on a template and then tape them together and they got bigger and bigger to make her head.
This year, we also went to a lantern making workshop and I made a little illuminarti lantern to carry in the parade. The parade was noisey and fun. We all parade with lanterns through the streets of Frome and then the mayor turns on the Christmas tree lights (but that’s what they want you to think – there’s really a man with a power box who switches on the lights when the mayor says to! He had a walkie talkie and an earpiece and was up a ladder!)
We also joined the SHARE Shop which is practically a library of stuff that you can borrow.
They say, “The average drill is used for only 13 minutes in its entire lifetime. What if, instead of buying that drill, you could borrow one instead?”(straight from their website). So they decided to put “A Library of Things” and you can rent them out to stop landfill and it’s to stop you from having to buy unnecessary items.
The first item we borrowed was a metal detector and we went to the beach with it to see if we could find any treasure. I thought I could actually make some money out of that. (But we didn’t!)
More recently we have borrowed a crepe maker and we had pancakes every day. My cousins came to visit and we all made crepes.
We also borrowed an electric bike which was a disaster we got lost in the woods and we got stuck in the mud! But we did have pizza when we got to our destination!
We have also borrowed a football table that I beat Mum at basically every time! At the moment, we have borrowed a massage chair and on Monday we are going to get a dehydrator and make fruit crisps. After that, I want to borrow the candy floss machine. But my Mum wants to borrow the inflatable kayak.
There is an indepedent market every month in Frome. Edventure MAKE students make ethical stuff to sell at that market. Last market, I bought a lavender-scented fish made from recycled materials. His name is “Bob.” He is beautiful and really cute. lt is supporting the local economy, like in the Fiver Fest. In the Fiver Fest, local shops that sign up to it sell things for £5, it’s to keep money local. We bought a meal at Nook, which I think is the best food in Frome and it fills every nook and cranny in your stomach!
So please consider me for a green Blue Peter Badge. Thank you
This summer 5 university students began volunteering one afternoon a week at SHARE as part of a 10 week resilience placement with Frome Town Council. Not fully knowing what to expect we arrived on day one to learn a little more about what makes the shop unique and what types of customers borrow items. It was inspiring to see first hand the popularity of the shop with customers coming and going in small flurries throughout the day, intrigued to find out what else they could borrow.
Borrowing is an inventive solution to the ongoing problems with waste we as a society face. It was refreshing to see that not only is the shop helping to reduce landfill, but it also unites local business owners and residents to come together and support a common cause. The shop is more than just a borrowing space, it sparks a conversation about the importance of being aware of our consumption habits. In 2019, where advertisements for purported must have goods are aplenty, it can feel like you are never up to date with the latest trends or must have gadgets. However, that is where the SHARE shop steps in to allow you to try out items beforehand and simultaneously lend preloved goods. From parties to weddings to home renovations, the shop caters to a whole host of needs and relieves the burden of having to source storage space to house infrequently used items.
From a volunteer’s experience, working at the SHARE shop has been rewarding, fun and at times challenging. As membership numbers have risen in recent months and donations flow in, there is the task of keeping on top of logging items, coding them and organising them into appropriate categories and locations. With an abundance of musical instruments, DIY tools, garden machinery and camping equipment, there is always something to be getting on with, whether that be assessing the condition of borrowed items or adding sponsorship tags respectively. One of the more challenging aspects of the role involved putting our teamwork skills into practice when setting up tents in a nearby meadow to check they had all their constituent parts intact. On one of the warmest days in the UK, we took to the local field, wheelbarrow in tow and got to work. It was satisfying to see the bell tent holding up and knowing how quick and simple it was to construct makes borrowing equipment even more appealing for special trips away.
It was quickly apparent that many customers value SHARE, not only for its diverse inventory of items but also based on the skills and knowledge it provides to locals. SHARE is predominantly volunteer run and relies on the goodwill of others to offer their skillsets to mend items or sort through stock. Volunteering costs nothing but gives back so much. In the short space of time we have been at SHARE, a fresh insight into this innovative community project has been gained and a newfound desire to share more acquired.
We’d like to encourage all borrowers to return items in as good condition as possible.
Bringing back items clean improves the efficiency of SHARE as a community resource.
As much as we’d love to provide the service of cleaning items that have been brought back dirty, we sadly don’t have the resources. i.e. When a lawn mower comes back with grass still in it we have no courtyard out back to empty it (we don’t even have our own wheelie bin!) Similarly, we don’t have hot water in the shop so can’t easily clean kitchen items that come back messy.
So please do make every effort to bring items back in a similar state to how you borrowed them.
Despite other members loving the concept of sharing, it doesn’t extend to sharing mess left by a previous borrower. If things are brought back in a particularly bad state we may have to ask you take the item back and bring it back clean, or even ask for a fee. But don’t worry, this will only happen in extreme cases. So long as you’ve done what you can to clean any mess you’ve made and brought the item back in a similar state to how you borrowed it then that’s fine by us.
Around 5 million tonnes of waste – both recyclable and not – is created around Christmas in the UK every year, equivalent to 450,000 double decker buses. At SHARE we want to do our small part in reducing this number by encouraging borrowing from our growing selection of Christmas items.
Sports & Games is one of our ten categories of items here at SHARE:Frome Library of Things.
At the time of writing we have over 40 items in the Sports & Games category including cricket and badminton sets, scooters, a trampette, a snakeboard, various other indoor and outdoor games plus juggling clubs and a big hula hoop!
Music/Media/Audio-Visual is one of our ten categories of items here at SHARE:Frome Library of Things.
At the time of writing we have over 40 items in the Music/Media/Audio-Visual category. We’ve got various musical instruments, recording devices, amps, pedals, tuners & PA systems, projectors and screens and more.