London’s Library of Things is a community space where members can borrow useful items, like DIY equipment or camping gear, for a small fee. The Library was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign following a pilot scheme last year. Built inside a shipping container in West Norwood, the space also runs workshops to teach the skills needed to use borrowed items and hopes to encourage people in the community to get to know one another through sharing.
GDR Innovation Researcher Lamorna Byford met James Tattersfield, one of the Library’s three founders, to find out more about how they set up the library and what opportunities such a scheme could represent for brands.
We’ve seen the sharing economy growing fast over the last few years. Why do you think there is a demand for a borrowing service like LoT?
“With the popularity of companies such as AirBNB, Uber and Appear Here, consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to the idea that our biggest assets (houses, spaces and cars) are able to, and should be, enjoyed by multiple people. The leap from this towards the products in our house is then fairly simple. Most people in London now live in a space roughly the size of a train carriage – that means there isn’t a lot of room to store things you don’t need often. The Library solves the problem of cluttered homes and cheap access to resources and I think that’s why it is so appealing.”
What were the biggest surprises during the pilot scheme in 2015?
Welcoming over 1,000 people in the first 10 days after we opened, I was surprised at the range of ages and backgrounds of those using the service. The spread was larger than we had first anticipated and skewed much older than expected. That was really interesting, finding that the library would appeal to all demographics, not just young people.
One thing I wish we had done better was to involve retailers much earlier in the process. The library now has received stock from retailers like B&Q, Patagonia and Berghaus but in the earlier days, we relied on donations and therefore we were beholden to those people who were willing to take the time to bring along a donation.
The Kickstarter campaign was really successful, raising nearly £15,000. Were you expecting it to do so well? Why do you think it appealed to so many people?
We wanted to ensure that we reached our target of £10,000 but didn’t think that the money would keep on flowing in as it did. Bex and Emma, who co-founded the organisation with me, spent an enormous amount of time ensuring that we had a strong community of supporters behind the idea before we began. Without this, I don’t think we would have seen the support we did.
When you were conceiving the Library, what opportunities did you think it (and the wider sharing economy) could represent for brands?
A Library of Things is a great way for brands to connect more closely with local communities in a friendly, non-intrusive space. Whether using the service to test/receive feedback on products with potential customers or having your brand sponsor certain activities (e.g. cooking or gardening), a Library of Things can ensure that your brand is present and seen as useful during people’s everyday activities. Sharing has positive connotations – make it something your brand does regularly and consumers will respond favourably.