Meet the locals saving money and helping the environment by borrowing from the Library of Things – Hackney Citizen


Ed Freckleton borrowed a drill for a few hours. Photography: Julia Gregory

It’s estimated that many people only use DIY tools for a few minutes before putting them away in the back of a closet.

For others, the cost of the equipment is enough to deter them from tackling these jobs.

In the past, Clapton resident Ed Freckleton would have borrowed a drill from his friends, but now that they’ve moved, he’s headed to the Library of Things at the Old Baths in Hackney Wick.

It is one of 10 such kiosks to have opened across London since the first was launched at Crystal Palace in 2018.

Freckleton reckons that had he not paid the £8 borrowing fee, he might have spent £140 renting equipment elsewhere or paid someone to do the work for him.

“I definitely wouldn’t have bought a drill,” he said.

“I just logged on this morning to use it. It’s pretty easy to use and it’s pretty intuitive to borrow and return things.

“I borrowed the drill to work on some lights and it was done in a few hours.”

Exercise is just one of dozens of “things” displayed in the lockers.

Robert Harris checking items before they are loaned out. Photography: Julia Gregory

People pay a membership fee, then a rental fee that varies by item, with a “no questions asked” concession rate.

Popular loans include the carpet cleaner and steam cleaner, but people can also borrow a speaker and sound system for a party, or a tent for a trip.

All kit is insured and inspected weekly by technicians to ensure there is no damage.

Hackney Wick Thing Tech Robert Harris said there is a guide for every item and people can develop their DIY skills.

In addition to saving money on items they may rarely need, this lending culture is part of the circular economy.

It’s the increasingly popular idea that “things are used for as long as possible, providing the highest possible value, for as long as they can,” according to ReLondon.

Now over a year old, the Hackney Wick Library of Things has loaned nearly 470 items to over 600 people, saving them around £15,000 in total.

It opened with support from the London Legacy Development Corporation and Stour Space, and is thought to have helped attract an additional 1,170 visitors to the Old Baths.

Neil McDonald, who helps advocate for the library, said: ‘It makes a lot more sense in terms of resources and time to borrow something.

He added, “If you don’t have good quality tools, the job is much harder.”

He said the self-service kiosk piqued the interest of people visiting the baths and inspired them to think about projects they could get involved in.

The library is thought to have saved borrowers around £15,000 in total. Photography: Julia Gregory

Kyra Hanson from the Library of Things explained how people discovered new talent: “We do skill-sharing workshops and we saw people from the community. We did DIY workshops and sewing workshops.

“It’s really nice to have in-person events. We had one person who came to two workshops and the next time she came she had made a dress. She was smiling and was so confident she was beaming because she had made the dress.

She added that people also want to get involved in workshops and share their know-how with others.

Hackney Council has provided space for a library of things at the CLR James Library in Dalston, meaning people can borrow anything from a steam cleaner to an ice cream maker while selecting books, CDs and DVDs.

It opened in December in partnership with the council and with support from Sustainable Hackney, and has loaned items almost 600 times to around 750 people.

The team estimates it saved residents £18,000 and saved 10 tonnes of carbon.

Cllr Mete Coban, cabinet member for energy and waste, said the venue can help people lower their cost of living “while also helping you do your part to tackle the climate crisis”.

The Library of Things is encouraging people in Hackney to join the #ZeroWasteHackney challenge which starts September 1st.

This year, the focus is on reducing the amount of non-recyclable waste that ends up in the trash.

Hackney Council is asking residents to reduce what they consume, especially single-use items.

Participants can earn credits to borrow items from the Library of Things by completing the month-long challenge. They must register before Wednesday, August 31.

Learn more here.

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