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Restart Radio: Borrowing boom at Library of Things

Library of Things

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As businesses and community spaces are able to pick up operations again, we talk to Alys Penfold about her work with Library of Things. Penfold is currently the Borrower Support Lead at Library of Things and tells us about their mission, their impact, and exciting new locations that are opening soon. 

While we were regularly going into the office, Restart shared an office with Library of Things. It’s lovely to catch up and talk about how borrowing and repair intersect. 

First, we discuss the news and start with a cautionary tale. Promises from manufacturers need to be watched closely at risk of them falling apart. The complete overhaul and watering down of Samsung’s Galaxy ‘upcycling’ scheme is evidence of this. Next, we move onto the potential – perhaps hopeful – fall of Bitcoin and why this would be beneficial for the planet. And finally, some good news as Consumer NZ recycles the French repairability index for mobile phones. This move makes us optimistic that similar indices could spread further than France and New Zealand. 

Library of Things is on a mission

The bold aim of Library of Things is to make “borrowing better than buying”. Penfold tells us how they do this, including reducing costs for consumers, reducing waste, and building a local community. Since starting their pilot location in West Norwood they have expanded across London to make borrowing more accessible to local communities. Library of Things is a look into what our buying habits could be like once we realise that consumerism is not sustainable in many areas. 

Their catalogue hosts a variety of items to be borrowed, some that surprised us. The things range from DIY to hobbying to adventuring and more. They cater to everyone’s needs whether you need to borrow a waffle maker, a tent, or a circular saw. And the range of things that can be borrowed is regularly expanding. 

Penfold shares some stories about how she has witnessed the impact of their work. There are many reasons why people borrow – it could be more practical, cheaper, or more ecologically conscious. 

Environmental impact and repair

Library of Things’ work does not only benefit the borrowers but also the environment. By preventing people from buying an item that they will likely only use a few times, they are helping tackle the mounting pile of e-waste that the UK produces. So far, through their Crystal Palace site alone they have prevented 15,900 kg more of this waste. 

Penfold tells us how they partner with manufacturers to create a symbiotic relationship of sorts. Major companies donate products to Library of Things and in turn, they are able to provide information on how long the products last and what needs to be fixed. Many of the things that Library of Things have in their catalogue would rarely be used by the average consumer. What they have found is that with regular use by their borrowers, the products are not necessarily designed with long lifespans that support frequent use. 

Collaboration and growth

Library of Things are planning to open many new locations in the coming months and are opening a new Hackney Wick site on June 15th. Around the country, there are also independent borrowing services popping up all over. Many of them have links to repair cafes and transition groups. We’re excited to see where Library of Things goes next! If you would like a Library of Things near you then head to their website for more information. 


[Photo courtesy of Library of Things]

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