We want volunteering at Crystal Palace Library of Things to be a joyful experience – for you, for the wider team and for all the local borrowers and learners.

We put lots of time and energy into making this happen (we invest an average of £150 in each volunteer in a 3 month cycle) – so we want to find people who are enthusiastic about Library of Things and the local community, and who can dedicate the time needed for the role they want to do.

Read on for details about how it all works!

The crowdfunding campaign led by Crystal Palace Transition Town

The crowdfunding campaign led by Crystal Palace Transition Town

Crystal Palace Library of Things: The story so far

Crystal Palace Library of Things started when 300 local people – including the Mayor of London – pledged £9,375 to bring it to town.

Joe and the Crystal Palace Transition Town community had wanted a Library of Things in the area for a while, and led the crowdfunding campaign to make it happen. Emily and Margaret from Upper Norwood Library Hub offered the building as a host location, plus their time and support. Finally, the Library of Things team came on board to supply the Things and make them available for borrowing.

The design for the new Library of Things

The design for the new Library of Things

Crystal Palace Community Connectors Joe & Alys

Crystal Palace Community Connectors Joe & Alys

Library of Things: How it works

We've spent 4 years lending, mending, designing, cataloguing, pricing, cleaning and sourcing to get to where we are now. We'd love to share what we've learned so far.

Read the full Library of Things story to understand how we've learned what we've learned.

Read these FAQs about how it all works in practice – and be ready to share what you know with borrowers!


The team: Who does what?

Each Library of Things works best when local borrowers come together to:

  • help each other borrow – The Host

  • fix and clean any broken Things – The Thing Fixer

  • teach each other practical skills like DIY and mending – The Skill Sharer

  • spread the word to others through local events, fundraisers, blogs, podcasts or videos – The Ambassador

Each Library of Things also has 2 Community Connectors, who coordinate Volunteer Nights, conduct interviews, send updates and work with Skill Sharers to put on the events programme.

Robbie started an impromptu Bob Marley singalong at a party

Robbie started an impromptu Bob Marley singalong at a party

The team Ethos & Culture

As a member of the team, we ask you to join us in championing these principles:

  • We like action. Making, mending, teaching, learning, planning, creating…we’re hands on!

  • We like to have fun. We get the music on, eat delicious food & celebrate each other.

  • We welcome everyone. Regardless of age, ethnicity, education or ability to use Things!

  • We self-organise. There are no bosses or managers to tell us what to do – we work together in-person and online to make great things happen.

  • We commit the time and energy. We turn up when we say we will. When we can’t commit to something, we’re honest about it and that’s okay.

We talk to each other in-person where we can – and online for quick updates and sharing stories

We talk to each other in-person where we can – and online for quick updates and sharing stories

How we talk to each other as a team

  • Face-to-face: All volunteers join our monthly Volunteer Night wherever possible. Children are welcome. At the Volunteer Night you can:
    + Complete training sessions – especially if you’re joining for the first time
    + Share your updates and hear what your teammates are working on
    + Relax and get to know your teammates over a cuppa or glass of wine
    We also throw a party at least twice a year, which everyone is invited to join.

  • Online messaging: A WhatsApp or Facebook group

  • Shared information: We store our shared documents on Google Drive

Now and then, the Community Connectors will send you an email with bigger updates and training opportunities.


The Trial Month

As a volunteer, your first month is a trial month. You can work out if the role is right for you and the Community Connector can make sure you are right for the role and the team.

You’ll get a free borrow to get you started, and then increasing discounts the longer you’re with us past the trial month.

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The 3-month commitment

Although the first month is a trial month, in principle every volunteer signs up to at least 3 months on the team. 

Every 3 months, we ask you the question: ‘Can you commit to the next 3 months on the team?’
If yes, we welcome you with open arms to join for the following 3 months.
If no – perhaps you’ve realised you have too much on – you can step down. No hard feelings! You can ask to rejoin at a later date, though remember that places are limited.


What you get as a Library of Things volunteer

  • Discounts OR a free borrow: For Hosts, Thing Fixers & ongoing Ambassador/ Skill Sharer roles, you’ll get 25% off borrowing after your first month, moving up to 50% after three months. For Skill Sharers & ad-hoc Ambassador roles, a free borrow of the Thing of your choice.

  • Friends: A network of local volunteers & connectors cheering you on. Get to know them at the monthly Volunteer Night!

  • Training: A flexible training programme – you can learn at your own speed. For example, every volunteer learns to use the more complex Things & check out items from the borrowing kiosk.

Emma invited her dad to get involved – he loved being able to roll up his sleeves and help!

Emma invited her dad to get involved – he loved being able to roll up his sleeves and help!

Refer your friends

Know someone who'd make a great Skill Sharer, Host, Thing Fixer or Ambassador?

Invite them along to our next Volunteer Night, send them this link libraryofthings.co.uk/volunteer, or tell them to drop into Upper Norwood Library Hub and chat to the Host.


Volunteer FAQs


1. Do I have to live nearby my Library of Things to volunteer?

We ask that volunteers live, work or are strongly connected to the local area. We’ve found people are likely to stop volunteering if they have to travel more than 10-20 minutes to get there. Plus it’s more likely you’ll bump into borrowers and other volunteers when out and about – and ultimately that’s what turns a neighbourhood into a home.

2. Can I swap roles once I've started?

It depends on what availability we have for each role, but we definitely want to make sure you’re happy in what you’re doing! Flag this to one of the Community Connectors - it doesn’t have to wait until the Volunteer Night (but give the role a good go first!)

3. How old do I have to be to be a Library of Things volunteer?

For now, we need you to be 18 or over to volunteer at Library of Things – sadly because regulations make it difficult for us to work with under-18s. Let us know if you’re under 18 and want to get involved – of if you know a younger person who might like to join us. If we get enough requests, we will investigate further.