Borrower accessing an item at the Library of Things in Crystal Palace. A similar kiosk will opening in Hackney Wick on 15 June.

The Borrowers of Hackney Wick: welcome to the Library of Things

The Library of Things, the social enterprise making “borrowing better than buying” in order to create a more sustainable future, is establishing a branch in Hackney Wick’s Old Baths.

Once this East End branch opens, residents will have the opportunity to borrow useful household items – screwdrivers, sewing machines, you name it – in exchange for a small fee.

Climate change is thought by many to be the greatest challenge humans face today. Athough scientists and politicians will indefatigably debate the best strategies and policies to undertake in the coming years, there is a general consensus that the resources we have on earth are finite and therefore need to be reused.

This is the thought underpinning Library of Things’ establishment; the enterprise which started in West Norwood and now has branches as far afield as Toronto. 

‘The idea came about when me and a few friends just got sick of the wasteful, consumerist culture of London,’ says Rebecca Trevalyan, the co-founder of Library of Things.

‘We all had tiny houses and just didn’t want them to get full of things that we’d never use and would just ultimately waste. We didn’t need to own drills and sound systems.’

Inspired by ‘lending libraries’ in Europe and Canada, the Library of Things started off in 2016 as a neighbourhood movement in West Norwood. The organisation eventually settled on the name Library of Things and has grown steadily, with the blend of a focus on sustainability and emphasis on community proving to be a success. 

The Library of Things turns over a profit by relying on local authorities commissioning them to start up and by the small fee that users give when borrowing items. For example, if you want to borrow a jig saw it’s £7 a day, or £13 if it’s a projector – perfect for a spontaneous movie night in.

‘Whatever money we make, we put back into the organisation to continue to pioneer this model of sustainable using,’ says Trevalyan. ‘We want to make “borrowing better than buying”.’ 

‘When first started up there was a huge amount of interest with people asking from all over the country if we could start a Library of Things where they were.’ 

When it was announced late last year that Hackney Wick was getting its own Library of Things, there was a wave of positivity on social media from our local community who welcomed the prospect of this new project which could save both pockets and the environment. 

‘Hackney Wick’s got a huge mix of diverse cultures and people from different walks of life,’ says Lucy Harrison, who is the Community Activator for Library of Things Hackney Wick branch. 

To find out what people in the area actually needed, the Library put a poll on social media in which residents could put forward a list of what they wanted to borrow the most.

‘Gazebos, tents, a lot of carpet cleaning things. Basically anything that you might only need once or twice in your life. So rather than buying something and then it just gathering a layer of dust, you can just borrow it. I think it’s great,’ Harrison. 

It’s not just basic DIY tools and outdoor camping kits that residents can borrow – there are also quite a few quirky goods on offer, too.

‘Sewing machines!’ exclaims Harrison, during a brief pause in our conversation.

As an organisation in its infancy, there’s real excitement about what they are trying to achieve with their social and eco mission. Hackney Wick – as a particularly progressive pocket of East London – seems the perfect environment for the Library of Things.

With a large number of creatives and artists residing in The Wick who aren’t necessarily financially stable enough to buy projectors and speakers for events, the Library of Things provides an answer to this.

‘As an artist myself, in the past I’ve always tried to look for a way round buying equipment like speakers for screenings,’ says Harrison. ‘It’s just so convenient to know that there’s something that’s easily accessible.’

Once the Library of Things opens for business in the Old Baths, run by Stour Studios, on 15 June. There will be an opportunity for residents to borrow a huge assortment of useful things for everyday life.

Recycling and reusing will be crucial in helping fight climate change in years to come and Hackney Wick locals will soon have their own hub which will help them do this. 

What ‘thing’ will you borrow?

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at our round-up of the Five best charity shops around Roman Road

Library of Things is located at Bow Baths on Eastway in Hackney Wick.
Library of Things is located at Bow Baths on Eastway in Hackney Wick.

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