In a nutshell...
Library of Things is a local space where people can borrow useful items whenever they need them - a power drill, a barbecue or a suitcase for example. This saves people money and brings people together in a friendly place close to where they live.
We want to bring a Library of Things to every community in the UK, to make the sharing economy a reality for ordinary people.
The organisation has been recognised by Ben and Jerry's 'Join Our Core' 2015 as one of Europe's top 25 social enterprises, and has already attracted press attention from across the world:
What's the need?
We met Mo when we ran our first Library of Things in a public library last year. Mo was a pensioner from an estate nearby who liked gardening, DIY and telling us stories about his childhood.
Each week, Mo would come in to borrow one of our items - one week a strimmer, then garden shears and and the next week, a power washer.
He had a small garden that he loved tending to but was sick and tired of heading to his local garden centre, forced to buy something he was only going to use once or twice a year.
The mad thing about this was that people on Mo's road did have tools - tools in almost perfect condition, sitting under-used and gathering dust in their sheds and garages.
Library of Things is a vibrant space in your community that lends out essential items at affordable prices and enables its members to:
1. Access useful items that they don't want, or are unable, to buy.
2. Lead clutter-free lives and still access the things they need to run their lives, homes and communities.
3. Save a whole lot of under-loved, but useful, things from being sent to landfill.
Last summer, friends Bex, James and Emma transformed an unused community room in a public library into a lively space, with help from local volunteers.
We were open just one day a week for ten weeks, but around 1000 people came through our doors!
Over 100 people donated an item of their own to our collection - and 1 in 3 came back to borrow something.
On the 11th week, we came back to tidy up - only to find a queue of locals asking where we’d gone.
Queues formed elsewhere too: our inbox quickly filled with emails from people in Essex, Dudley, Cardiff, Frome, Edinburgh, Melbourne, California… all wanting to open their own Library of Things.
Frome has even raced ahead and managed to open Share: A Library of Things with support from the local council. We doff our caps to them for getting lending trending.
We want to bring a Library of Things to every high street in the UK, to make the sharing economy a reality for ordinary people.
To do that, we're creating a social franchise - to help communities open their own Library of Things with low costs and risks.
But first things first: we need a flagship store. And we've earmarked Lambeth in South London as the perfect spot. It has a vibrant community and is also the place we call home.
Where's the £12,000 going?
We've worked out we need to raise £12,000 to build and run a Library of Things flagship for 6 months.
Our main financial strategy is to beg, borrow and share resources wherever possible, keeping our spends low and involving the community in every stage of the build.
With £12,000, we'll be able to afford:
The 3 founding directors will volunteer their time, and will recruit a few handy helpers to keep the place running for our first year - we're budgeting a small amount to keep them fed, watered and to cover their travel costs. In time, we hope we'll be in a position to hire a Store Manager.
We've incorporated Library of Things as a non-profit company, but that doesn't mean we won't be earning any money. We've crunched some numbers: with low membership fees, late fees and skills workshops, we can cover our running costs and break even in our third year.
Rebecca 'Bex' Trevalyan, Operations Director
Rebecca (or Bex) is Community Activator at co-working space start-up, Impact Hub Brixton. She spends her days connecting people, organising events and doing all of the hands-on tasks that a start-up requires. Bex is able to leverage her networks (and her endless pool of energy) to make stuff happen on the ground.
She holds an MA in Leadership for Sustainable Development from Forum for the Future and a BA in Modern Languages from the University of Cambridge.
James Tattersfield, Marketing Director
James is interested in how socially orientated organisations can successfully scale their ventures and generate mass social change. A firm believer in human-centred design and co-creating change with the general public, during the week James works as a Digital Producer at award winning social enterprise, Latimer Group.
He holds an MA in Economic History from the University of Edinburgh.
Emma Shaw, Financial Director
Emma is Strategy Analyst at Future Cities Catapult, where she is regularly called on to advise the executive team. Well-versed in sustainability, cities, enterprise and leadership, Emma is able to make the numbers work - as well as the social impact.
She holds an MA in Leadership for Sustainable Development from Forum for the Future and a BA in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge.
Risks and challenges
Risk #1 : Health and safety issues around items
We have reached out to lawyers and insurers to help us design an insurance package that will give us some protection. We will be stringent about testing all items for safety on a regular basis.
Risk #2 : Items get lost or damaged
We are designing a registration process that incentivises careful use of items. We have reached out to insurers to design a package based on projected non-return rates.
Risk #3 : Everything costs more than we expect
We ran a pilot on a shoestring budget and managed to establish a successful retail space. If costs are higher than expected we will inject capital into the project using a match-funding investment initiative.
- (30 days)