The Library of Things

just a short drive away from SE23, this is a great non profit community project, about to reopen and relocate to Upper Norwood. The Library of Things has an eclectic collection of useful stuff - eg PA System, gazebo, tools, mowers, sewing machines, guitars - the list is long. You pay an affordable daily fee to borrow the Thing you need. Which means you don’t need to own and keep in your shed all those Things that you’d otherwise buy and only ever use once in a blue moon.

We’ve used it a few times, lovely people, nice vibe to the whole operation, and thought there would be a few on here who’d like to know about it. I have no connection btw.


What a great idea. I shall have to take a closer look. Sounds like a wonderful mish mash.


The inventory page is a “must see”.

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Waffle Maker!

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You can borrow a kite!! A kite ! How cool, given most people buy one, use it, and never use it again.

I love the idea of this site!


When I lived I Belsize Park I got involved with the Transition Network there (while I was founding

They had tried a similar initiative (a shared shed) but it failed as items were lost and broken.

However, they were different from the Norwood project as they didn’t have the same supervision and fee structure in place. It’ll be interesting to see how the fees are spent by the Library of Things (this isn’t very clear in their FAQ)

Signed up! Was looking to hire a jet washer to clean the decking… and here is one for £6. Great!

Vaguely related note on this - I used a jet washer to clean my decking and when the nozzle got too close to the wood it started stripping off the paint. Beware!

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there’s a bit of info on income and running costs in one of the blogs on the site - looks as though they are gradually building a sustainable model - or trying to :-
So how does the business of borrowing stack up?

Well, there are 3 key sources of income:

  1. Borrowing fees : We’ve been amazed at the demand we’ve seen for borrowing this year. We’ve reached 500+ members in 10 months and have backlogs of reservations for popular Things like pressure washers and carpet cleaners. Most people would rather pay £5 for a gazebo for the day than buy one for £120, and pay to store it!

  2. Events & sponsorship : B&Q West Norwood has offered to co-deliver DIY workshops with us this summer. We will run these on a tiered pricing basis – people on lower incomes can choose to pay a lower amount.

  3. Tours and learning : We’ve run workshops about Library of Things for a Belgian business school, for groups of community activists, for Bosch UK Senior Leadership Team…

And then there are running costs that we’re constantly working to reduce:

  1. Rent : It makes sense that all new Libraries of Things make use of underused spaces rent-free, at least at first. We’re generously hosted by our partners Community Shop. We don’t pay rent but bring other benefits like higher footfall

  2. Staff : We’re investing in technology to make it easier for members to borrow and return items themselves – to reduce the amount of team time needed.

  3. Stock : We’re building partnerships with equipment manufacturers to develop what we’ve called a ‘leasing model’. Imagine Carpet Cleaners Ltd gives us a carpet cleaner at no up-front cost to us. We lease out the carpet cleaner at £12 per day. Carpet Cleaners Ltd receives a percentage of every borrow fee – and in exchange provides ongoing maintenance and training.

  4. Insurance : We’re working out a community insurance package to lower the risk and cost for everyone


I will be careful, thanks!