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30 cheers to the last 2 years: we’re getting London borrowing

Emma, March 15, 2022

Last Thursday evening we gathered our team, investors and Mission Guardians for a celebration at Hackney Wick Library of Things (LoT), hosted by our local partner and Mission Guardian, Neil, and his brilliant team at Civic State.

It was the first time we’d brought people together in person for over two years, since we first laid out plans to work with councils and communities across London to bring borrowing to their neighbourhoods. A joyous moment to say, “hey, we did it!” and “thank you” — to those you have invested their time, energy, skills, spaces, networks and money to make it possible. 

7 London neighbourhoods borrowing 

That morning, LoT’s seventh location had opened for borrowing — with inspiring local partner Greener & Cleaner at their new climate action hub in ‘The Glades’ shopping centre in Bromley, so there was a lot to celebrate.

Amongst the drills and sewing machines, we huddled around the kiosk, each person in turn sharing a celebration and raising their glass to:

  • Surviving and growing through a challenging two years
  • Bringing new technology to life: “these locker doors can all open because of the code I’m writing from my living room”
  • Building a talented team of 25 and a culture of care
  • Unseen work, especially LoT’s dedicated Thing Technicians and those working on less visible but fundamental parts of the company
  • Partnerships: actively working with 20+ organisations, from grassroots networks like Sustainable Hackney, to councils like Merton and Camden, to manufacturers like Bosch, “Just as no single individual or organisation can solve inequality or climate change, we need multiple individuals and organisations to rewire consumerism”
  • Hope: seeing 5000 people excitedly come in to borrow things to start a new project at home, then coming back to share what they’ve created, and committing to reusing/ repairing more often
  • Women leaders and entrepreneurs creating new role models, with a special mention to co-founder Emma’s Women in Innovation Award and purple plaque from Innovate UK
  • Helping build a movement, not just a business: we’ve inspired and swapped notes with tool and item lending libraries around the world, and are part of the growing Sharing Library Network in the UK
  • Our crowdfund campaign – at the time of writing, at 75% of its target with 107 investors!

Part of something bigger 

LoT has always been more than the sum of its parts, connecting each of us to a bigger purpose and movement. That is especially true for partners like Civic State, running a venue to make all sorts of common assets accessible to the local community.

With a guided tour of the 1930s former bath house, we were shown through the living room and main hall (used by choirs, chess clubs, ecstatic dance groups and filmmakers alike) to the old car park outside — now home to Community Sauna Baths CIC, who’ve installed saunas and ice water plunge pools alongside what will soon be a new community garden.

Stroll further and you’ll find modular plywood buildings, made by the CNC mill that sits inside them — and the same type of machine that’s used to make LoT’s own borrowing kiosks, demonstrated by maker Bruno, who set about printing a 3D LoT logo from plywood offcuts to the wide-eyed crowd.

Growing the movement

Two years ago, we only dreamt we could achieve the milestones that we celebrated last week. There were detailed plans, of course, and an expectation that not everything would go smoothly. But nothing would prepare us for those plans being put on hold or flipped on end, whilst we weathered the stormy seas of the pandemic, Brexit and the impact it had on all of us. 

Through a potent mix of good fortune, determination and a resilient network of support from every single member of LoT’s community, those plans have become real. We know because we looked each other in the eyes and raised our glasses at least 30 times with a big smile on our faces.

So now the plans are bigger, and thousands more people will be part of it. LoT is growing the culture of borrowing, building on the amazing work and sharing initiatives that are already happening in communities. 

Join us! We’re raising money through a crowdfunding campaign to partner with councils and communities around the country to get their neighbourhoods borrowing. Find out more about how to invest over on Ethex: https://www.ethex.org.uk/invest/library-of-things 

Photo credits: Alexis Liming, LoT’s Finance Lead and dab hand with a camera