In a new series of blogs, journalist and Library of Things team member Chris Twomey talks to Bex about what life is like behind the scenes of London's first borrowing shop. Got questions to ask? Post them in the comments below!
What do the three of you honestly feel about how Library of Things has gone so far?
We’re super excited about the team we’ve built - the team of librarians, service designers, writers, photographers and connectors who run the Library.
The Librarians greet borrowers, demonstrate the Things and make Library of Things a joyful place to be.
One of them is Fiona. She’s been a senior book librarian in Lambeth and Wandsworth for much of her life. She’s now retired and living a five-minute walk away. She’s a ball of energy and whips up delectable desserts for our events.
And then there’s Mirela. She’s a local mum of two, originally from Bosnia, incredibly organised, really likes things being in the right place and having systems that work. She’s really excited to get involved more in the project.
Ollie. Ollie’s a bit of a nomad, he’s thinking about ways to live without paying rent in London for a year, and he’s plotting things like buying a van or sofa-surfing and then writing a book about it. He’s super practical. He’s running some of our workshops, from woodworking to Chinese New Year steamboat feasts.
Nat - she’s from Poland originally, and has been working in the digital world for ages. She’s a pleasure to hang out with - she tells us stories about Polish weddings, and even provided the Library stash of vodka, you know, for slow days.
And then, there’s a guy called Chris, a former journalist, on the Comms team (that‘s me readers!)
Becky is a writer and local mum, and has created a beautiful set of ‘inspiration cards’ for Library of Things. She’s now working her magic on the newsletters and social media for the project.
Maria is a ball of energy. She's a radio journalist in training, and is creating the first ever Library of Things podcast!
Also on board is incredible designer and engineer called Shruti. She came to the UK from India 5 years ago, and has phenomenal experience working in and studying everything from construction to economic theory, industrial design to inventing healthcare products… She's been helping with the design of our Bootcamp and Toolkit.
What would you say your main skills gap is at the moment?
We'd love to share more stories of what we're doing. So we’d love to hear from website builders, videographers, photographers and event planners. Fundraisers are always handy too!
What's been the most useful thing you've learned since starting Library of Things?
We’ve got a good understanding of what the top 60 Things should be, thanks to our wishlist. But on the enterprise side, I’ve learned that recruiting and training the right people in the right way is really crucial.
What do you mean by recruitment?
I mean building a team who believe in what you’re doing, who can run various aspects of Library of Things, or be part of an advisory team, or who can tweet about borrowing, or who can write blogs about it. Understanding people’s strengths. People feel good when they’re doing things that give them energy.
As directors we don’t mind working for free until midnight or whatever, but the day-to-day running of LOT - having to deal with broken carpet cleaners and those sorts of things - can be draining. Finding ways to bring more people into leadership roles has been crucial.
The other burning question is, what's the chemistry like between you, Emma and Sophia - the three directors?
That’s a good question. Emma and I have been friends and worked together for a long time, so we know each other’s quirks. We know if the other has had a bad morning, or when they just need to be given a cookie!
Emma calls herself a spreadsheet geek. She does lots of the financial planning and organising, making sure we’re where we should be on time, and making sure the space is functional and organised…which is pretty crucial when you’re trying to find a miniature screwdriver in 30 square metres work of tools and kit. She’s kooky, she's a master of good conversation - and she makes people laugh.
Sophia joined the team in an informal way. She tweeted us one day and just said “can I get involved?” and we met for a pint and got on. At the beginning of last year she quit her job so she could put all her energy into Library of Things.
Bringing in someone new could have been a challenge, but because we spent so much time hanging out - just going to the pub or chatting about life outside work - we’ve become mates. Friendship is always first for me, and work is second.
Sophia’s hilarious. She describes herself as “silly, serious and capable” and that’s very true. She’s got this incredible capacity to think strategically and see the minute detail in branding and design. She doesn’t settle for anything until she’s completely happy with it. But when we were working together during the summer I realised more and more that she’s incredibly goofy.
Goofy in what respect?!
Every time you speak to her she’ll reply in a different accent. Sometimes you’ll walk into the library and you’ll find her playing ukulele with a kid, or being wheeled round the car park in a trolley by a seven-year-old, or having a joke with Jim, who looks after the Community Shop garden opposite.
And what would they say about you?!
Ha, probably that I’m a work-aholic! They receive the occasional email from me at 2am… I’d like to think the words ‘passionate’ and ‘joyful’ would feature too.
Interested in joining the Library of Things team? Drop Bex a line, explaining why you're interested and what strengths you'd like to bring.