“First of all we’re only open two days a week, so people have to plan ahead and come and pick items up on the days we’re open. But I hope in future we might be able to offer a delivery service to make it easier.”
The library has only been open for a few months but Aitchison has done some impressive sums on the positive impact it has already had on the community’s pockets – and the planet.
“In the time we’ve been open we’ve done around 250 borrows,” he says. “It equates to around ?5,000 of money saved, because the average item here is worth ?20.
“And there’s another extrapolation you can do, which is if you then assume that every ?100 of goods you lend is 100kg of carbon, we have saved five tonnes of carbon.
“Everything that isn’t bought is a thing that doesn’t need to exist. We have stopped things existing by borrowing instead, and that’s why it’s exciting.”
Aitchison has a list of items he’d like to add to the collection, among them a projector and a pizza oven so that the community can arrange events that bring people together. But even more than donated items, Aitchison is looking for more people to come and use the library. He’s not sure if it’s because it’s January when we meet, or because ongoing concern over high numbers of Covid cases is keeping people at home, but the library of things has been quieter than he’d hoped it would be when it opened last October.
As we chat, a couple come in to browse the shelves after stumbling upon the library while out in Headingley.
Tess and Paul Elliot come in and borrow a chainsaw. They’re building a shed in their back garden, and say the library has proven handy.
They’ve never heard of it before, they say, and they will definitely come back, but for now they don’t really need anything
He’s been here since the early days, helping Aitchison with everything from putting up shelves to photographing and recording items for the website.
Leeds University student James Murphy is one of the library’s volunteers
“I really love working in small organisations and seeing how they grow, and this has been a real education,” says Murphy. “It’s been an amazing opportunity. It’s fun trying to convince people of why we are better than the average shop.”
Lee Ingleby comes in with a ukulele and a handful of Ordnance Survey maps. He’s a founding member of the Leeds Library of Things and a follower of the Buy Nothing movement – a project that started in the US to encourage people to share belongings and form connections with other people through sustainability. Ingham is keen to see the library growing into a valued community asset.
“Anyone lending stuff here gets the pleasure of making something available, and those who are borrowing get the benefit. We’re hoping people meet one another,” says Ingham. “That’s the drive behind it really – it’s a community development project based around the gift economy.”
Aitchison wants the library of things to become an institution where students come when they need to do a deep clean of their houses before they hand back keys to their landlords. He wants first-time buyers to come and useful source borrow hammers and ladders when they reilies throwing parties to come and borrow ice cream makers, disco balls, and gazebos, and he wants festival goers to borrow tents, camping stoves and sleeping bags. He’s also keen for fledgling businesses and entrepreneurs to borrow a carpet cleaner as part of their cleaning service or borrow tools and get paid to do DIY or gardening.