When the sun shines, the world shares

One year after London’s first Library of Things opened its doors, more people than ever are queueing up to borrow festival gear, gardening equipment and ukuleles.

Community business Library of Things launched its item lending service from a custom-made turquoise shipping container space on a car park in South London one year ago, on a scorching hot summer’s day. In just one year the Library has gained over 500 members, who come to borrow a range of items and learn new skills. 

The Library of Things passed 1,000 ‘lends’ in April this year. The most borrowed items so far are carpet cleaners, tents, drills, sewing machines, large music speakers and a pair of colourful ukuleles. But the library also includes a jerk chicken BBQ, a body board and a full golf set among its 346 items to borrow at deliberately affordable prices. 

Library member #513 Dan Hart borrowed 2 barbecues, table tennis sets and catering things for his Brixton street party, part of the Great Get Together. “It’s amazing – we can borrow this stuff for the weekend, rather than buying it for over £200 and then paying to store it.”  

Festival season is peak time for the library as young and not-so-young music lovers arrive to  borrow camping equipments for upcoming events like Glastonbury. The library is so popular that it has started creating ‘festival packs’ with camping essentials in them.

The all-female co-founder team of Sophia Wyatt, Emma Shaw and Rebecca Trevalyan have recruited a team of 14 local volunteers and freelancers to run the service in exchange for being able to borrow for free.

Volunteer and local mum Mirela Grubesic is one of the top borrowers. “I spent a day flying the Library’s kite with my son Danny for the first time. At the end of the day he looked at me and said, ‘mum, this has been one of the best days of my life!’” 

Volunteer Oliver Kirkman said, “One of my highlights has been helping a member and his daughter pick the things they wanted for her first camping trip. Another moment was seeing the kid-like grin on two grown men’s faces as they walked out with the Nintendo 64.”  

Items are sourced directly from product manufacturers and retailers. Cleaning product manufacturer Karcher has made donations, as have outdoor equipment companies Berghaus and Patagonia, and B&Q West Norwood.

Library of Things also wanted to help its customers learn new skills and meet one another. Local woodworker Ben Willis led workshops for 15 people, who built long dinner tables together using surplus wood donated by Lambeth cemeteries. Local Suze Jones invited her neighbours to the Library for a sociable evening of mending. 

“Repairing buttonless school shirts and holey socks is so much more fun with others there to help – and with a glass of wine in hand,” Suze said.

The social enterprise is planning to run a series of DIY training events this summer, in partnership with B&Q West Norwood.  

Library of Things is a pioneer in the UK’s growing sharing economy, a move towards more inspiring retail experiences and more community ownership over local services.

The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030, people will generally be leasing consumer goods, rather than buying and owning them (

“One day, Library of Things itself won’t own anything – we hope we can lease all our stock directly from product manufacturers. That means we can have high quality, well-maintained items without the high overhead,” said co-director Rebecca Trevalyan.

In a 2017 report, Deloitte said of the retail sector, ‘The store experience will increasingly focus on one of two things: inspiration or convenience’ (

In 2016 alone, funder Power to Change invested £12 million in community-owned and led businesses like pubs, sports grounds and libraries (   

Want to help grow the sharing movement? Donate what you can here:

-- Editor notes --

Join Library of Things on Saturday 24th June, 2-5pm, for photos and interviews with the team, members, and Library of Things in action. More details and RSVP:

Contact Rebecca on 07584084313 or to arrange an alternative time.

High quality photos available here. Please credit photographer Sebastian Wood.

1 Comment