Open air ping pong, kite flying, stalls to try out DIY tools, a mending workshop, a crazy board game called “power drill darts”, freshly made waffles and hot dogs, lots of singing and…oh, and plenty of chilled beer (courtesy of the lovely people at the Gipsy Hill Brewing Company).

It could only mean one thing: Library of Things was celebrating its first birthday party!

What a difference a year makes. When LoT officially opened its turquoise shipping container doors a year ago, nobody really knew if an affordable community lending service, offering everything from hammers to carpet cleaners, would take off.

So far it has surpassed all expectations. With over 500 members registered, 1000 items loaned, admiring media attention, many new friendships forged and at least three more Library of Things planning to open (in Crystal Palace, North Kensington and Peterborough), it was time to paaartay!

This was a chance for the whole LoT team, Sophia, Bex, Emma, Fiona, Mirela, Nat, Ollie, Kelly, Aaron, Shakira, Chris, Becky, Joel and Maria, to take stock of their amazing achievements over the last year and to celebrate with members and partners.

The party was a chance for your correspondent to discover what members like about Library of Things…and find out what they’ve been borrowing.

Hopal, who lives in a nearby flat, revealed the first thing she borrowed was a steam cleaner.

“Prior to that I’d hand-washed a rug and it was such hard work,” she says. “The steamer was brilliant and I’m steaming everything at the moment…apart from my children. The staff are really friendly and approachable and they’re always very keen to get your feedback. Also, I like the fact that I keep bumping into people who live locally – some of whom I recognise but don’t know, and others I just haven’t seen for ages – and we strike up a conversation.”

Hopal’s experience was mirrored by several other members, who were encouraged to post messages and illustrations of their favourite Things on a story board attached to one of the containers. Coincidentally, one person I caught posting turned out to be Sophia’s partner Josh, who admitted he was initially sceptical about LoT’s chances of success.

“I just wasn’t sure how it would come together from the borrowing of the things to the actual space itself,” Josh admits. “But when I saw the containers take shape I thought, ‘Yes, this is going to work. Not just here – I can see it working everywhere.’

“I think both the librarians and the founders make this the great place it is. You could have a Library of Things with loads of objects in it, but if the people running it didn’t really believe in it and weren’t the nice people they are, then I don’t think it would work.”

Aww shucks… As a volunteer I take personal pride in Josh’s last statement, even though I’m not a “front of house” volunteer (I write blogs) like Mirela, who some of you will know if you drop into LoT on Tuesdays when she’s on duty. “The highlight of the party for me was the great mix of people,” she says, “and I got to meet my team’s family and friends.”

I guess we all have our favourite memories of the day. For me it was thrashing two people at table tennis. Even if one of them was my 14-year-old daughter Ava..


See photos of the day here. Photo credit: Tyler Freeman Smith