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Why we're more than just a rental company

Bobbie, April 11, 2024

Every now and then we get trolled on social media by people saying we're just a rental company, so we wanted to set the record straight. We're a social enterprise on a mission to make borrowing better than buying – more affordable, convenient, socially-rewarding and kinder to the planet.

We keep prices as low as we can 💰

Our prices are designed to be affordable, and the bits you need to get started are included in the price - whether it's carpet cleaning tablets for the Carpet Cleaner, sand paper for the Hand Sander, or clamps and safety goggles for the Jigsaw. We intentionally have no deposits, and a no-questions-asked 25% discount Concession Membership for those who need it.

We make accessing quality tools easy 🙌

Library of Things has been co-designed to make accessing quality items accessible to as many people as possible. When we started out, we heard from lots of members (particularly women) that they found commercial tool hire intimidating. They said they lacked confidence in DIY. So, we spent lots of time co-designing the service with the help of thousands of our members, so that it works for many people, such as:

  • Locating our collection points in publicly-accessible spaces like libraries and shopping centres.
  • Building simple, user-friendly software.
  • Re-writing how-to guides and videos to be simpler and easier to follow.
  • Testing over 600+ items over 10 years to work out which brands and models are most user-friendly and durable.
  • Creating local partnerships with councils and grassroots networks to ensure that a broad demographic hear about the service, and feel invited to use it.
  • Introducing a delivery service, to make our Things accessible to even more people.
  • Working with partners to offer free and reduced-rate borrowing when we can.

We put purpose before profit 🌎

We were started by three friends - Sophia, Bex and Em, who were studying sustainable development. Here's a photo of them back when Library of Things was just an idea. They were so passionate about creating a positive impact, that they created a company that is legally-bound to always consider you and the environment in every decision we make. We also have Mission Guardians – which is how we involve our stakeholders in our strategic decision-making, to ensure Library of Things works for members, partners, impact investors, team and planet long-term. We do our best to place our values at the heart of our team culture – from the way we make decisions to the way we design our employment contracts.

Sustainability and community is at the heart of what we do 💜

It's clear that sharing our stuff is an essential part of Britain reaching Net Zero. But we want to do even more. Here’s what we’re working on:

  • Testing ways for members to participate beyond just renting items – from sharing inspiration and tips via a digital messageboard, to signposting other local services, or organising and listing local events such as repair parties, DIY classes and swap shops.
  • Partnering with councils and local grassroots networks to spark hyperlocal movements around reuse and associated behaviours like repair and recycling.
  • Working to embed some of this functionality into our platform.
  • Introducing supporter memberships as a way to belong to the movement.
  • More ways that we can have a human presence in the community – watch this space!

We're helping more places start borrowing 💪

As the first lending library in the UK, we've helped grow the UK network by sharing many of our learnings from the last 10 years with others starting similar libraries. We're now making our in-house built technology available to help power the movement too, starting by partnering with Benthyg Cymru, the network for lending libraries across Wales.

Of course none of this would be possible, without you being part of the movement. You’re what makes us not just a rental company, you’re what makes us a social enterprise making a better future for people and planet. Our platform was co-designed with love, over many years, with thousands of members and grassroots organisers around West Norwood, Crystal Palace, Morden, Dalston, North Kensington, Hammersmith and more.

📷 Sharing library leaders from around the UK, who we co-convened and hosted in Crystal Palace. 💜