Your guide to a Library of Things

Ever needed a niche item but haven’t wanted to part with your hard-earned cash to buy something you won’t get much use out of? A Library of Things could be just what you need.

Library of Things are popping up here, there and everywhere. They allow communities to share a wide range of items and tools that people tend to only need infrequently. Why buy new and potentially waste money when you could borrow instead? Not only will you be connecting with your community and reducing your environmental impact, but you could save a fair bit of cash too.

How does a Library of Things work?

1. Decide whether to buy or borrow

If you need to use an item for a specific occasion, such as a sewing machine for a one-off repair or a wallpaper stripper for a DIY project, it may be much more cost-effective to use a sharing library rather than buy.

However, if you know you’re going to be making plenty of use out of a tool or piece of equipment then you may wish to invest in buying it brand new.

2. Find your nearest Library of Things

If you’re keen to start using a Library of Things, check out this nationwide directory to see if there’s a sharing library near you.

You may find there isn’t a suitable location nearby, which is where you could step in. Why not get together with your friends and neighbours to set up your own borrowing hub? As a starting point, you’ll need to…

  • Work with a group of volunteers and reach out to others who have set up a Library of Things before
  • Research the needs and preferences of your community
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan
  • Find a suitable space for your Library of Things
  • Fundraise to help you get hold of items for people to borrow
  • Figure out the best way to manage your inventory and donations
  • Get to the bottom of legal requirements, such as insurance, health and safety regulations and any policies you must have in place
  • Promote your new Library of Things

3. Become a member

Most community lending libraries will require you to become a member before you’re able to borrow things. This may involve a nominal fee that’ll help to cover operating costs. It also ensures all members feel a sense of responsibility and commitment to the library, so users are more likely to take care of the items they borrow.

You’ll also need to agree to the borrower’s agreement if there is one. As a member that has agreed to the terms of use, you’ll likely be insured to use the item you’ve hired. However, most community lending libraries stipulate that no one but yourself will be allowed to use the item you’ve hired, you can’t borrow items for professional work and you won’t be able to host an event using an item you’ve borrowed without your own public liability insurance.

4. Search for and reserve the item you wish to borrow

Your local Library of Things should have an online catalogue that allows you to browse the items available for borrowing. Simply reserve the goods and arrange a time to pick them up.

5. Pick up and enjoy

Your Library of Things should give you all the information you need to start using the item, such as how-to guides. However, it’s your responsibility to learn how to use the item safely. It’s worth thoroughly inspecting any item before using it too.

One of the great things about community sharing hubs is there’s often a volunteer ready and willing to share their expertise with you. If you’re not sure how to use an item or need someone to explain how it operates, just ask.

6. Return when you're finished

Like a classic book library, you just drop the item you’ve borrowed back off at your Library of Things when it’s due for return.

You’ll need to make sure any item is returned in good condition, clean and fully functioning for the next person to use!

What can I borrow?

A community lending library usually stocks expensive goods, bulky items and products people use rarely. As these libraries are all about sustainability, you’re more likely to find durable and repairable items such as DIY tools or crafting equipment than cheaper items that could quickly ruin (such as cheap cooking utensils etc).

You might also find items such as toys, board games or camping equipment, which allow you to borrow the things you need for a specific purpose rather than buy new and shove in the back of a cupboard later.

Ultimately, a Library of Things wants to maximise the use of its stock. So you can expect to see items that allow a community to make the most of shared resources.

The benefits of a Library of Things

1. It can be cheaper to borrow rather than buy

A Library of Things is most cost-effective for expensive items you have rare use for, such as DIY tools or party equipment.

Think about ‘cost per use’ before deciding whether to buy or borrow.

For example, buying a projector outright could cost you hundreds of pounds but you could borrow it from a Library of Things for less than £20 per day. If you’re only planning on using it for a one-off event, you could save yourself a lot of cash.

However, if you are a keen chef looking for an air fryer you may find it more cost effective to buy one. Presuming you could borrow the item for £6 per day and buy it outright for around £130, it would only take you 22 uses before it becomes more efficient to buy.

2. Try before you buy

Top quality items come at a price. Often, a Library of Things stocks some of the best brands on the market that you might be unable to afford otherwise. This gives you chance to test luxury or high-end products before you commit to making a purchase.

A Library of Things also gives you the opportunity to try out items you’re not sure you’ll have use for. Let’s go back to our earlier air fryer example. If you’ve never owned an air fryer before, you might not be sure whether you’ll enjoy it and what use you’ll get out of it. Instead of taking a risk and parting with your hard-earned cash to buy one upfront, why not borrow one for a few days to see what you think?

3. Keep clutter to a minimum

Every item in your cupboards adds up! If it’s not something you use regularly, why buy something that’ll just take up much-needed space?

Borrowing from a Library of Things allows you to make the most of your living space – saving room for the items you really need.

4. Get what you want, when you want it

A Library of Things allows you to reserve and collect the things you need quickly. No need to waste time browsing online for the best deal. No waiting around for an item to be delivered. Simply head to your local lending library website and reserve at the click of a button.

5. Connect with your community

Many Library of Things are local endeavours run by volunteers. That means the people who run them are often passionate about the service and willing to help you find what you need.

If you’re keen to improve your DIY skills but not sure where to start, you’re looking for a way to mend a precious keepsake or wanting to plan the perfect party you can always ask a Library of Things expert to help you find the most suitable items.

Your local lending library may even run workshops and skill share sessions to help members learn how to use different tools and equipment.

6. Look after the planet

Reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill by borrowing things you won’t often use. A Library of Things promotes a shared economy, with a mission to maximise an item’s use rather than throwing it away.

Items in a Library of Things are often well-maintained, too, which increases the longevity of the products. This also minimises the environmental impact associated with constant replacement.

7. Support the local economy

Local Library of Things can generate a range of employment and volunteering opportunities while also supporting local businesses through partnerships.

Furthermore, having a valuable community resource brings a neighbourhood together and drives footfall into a town or village. At a time when over four in five UK consumers are digital buyers, isn’t it nice to have the chance to visit a library in person?

Save your money for the things you really need

Here at Novuna, we’re all about helping you reach your goals. By borrowing smaller ticket items, you can save your money for those all-important purchases such as a car or a big home improvement project.

If you find you need a helping hand to make those important things happen sooner, a personal loan could help. Borrow the money you need and spread repayments over a timeframe that suits you and your finances at low rates from 7.4% APR Representative (£7,500-£25,000).


Written by

Sophie Venner

Sophie Venner is a Yorkshire-based content writer specialising in crafting content for the financial services industry. She’s written over 300 articles on finance, but she’s covered everything from insurance to digital marketing trends. Her content has been featured in the likes of Semrush, Digital Marketing Magazine and Insurance Business. In her spare time, you won’t find Sophie far from a notepad and pen as she squirrels away trying to write a novel.

Wednesday 17th January 2024