Library of Things FAQ

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About the Library of Things

What is a Library of Things (LoT)? 

A Library of Things is a collection of things other than books that are loaned out to members of the community, like books traditionally have been. A Library of Things might loan out kitchen appliances, tools, gardening equipment, electronics, toys and games, art, science and craft equipment, musical instruments, recreational equipment, and more – anything that you might want to have access to or the use of but not necessarily to own.The Library of Things movement is a growing trend in public, academic, and special libraries in many countries. 

What’s the difference between a LoT and a hire shop?

There are various differences between a hire shop and a Library of Things, specifically one set up like SHARE Oxford’s Library of Things:

  • our Library of Things is non-profit and aims to be a community action group, rather than a commercial or social enterprise;
  • it contains a wide range of things, including many that a hire shop would not have;
  • it aims to loan items out more cheaply than a hire shop would and thus to be affordable for anyone;
  • we aim to be part of a change in economic behaviour that will reduce waste, through the Library itself and being involved in wider networks of events, campaigns and activities.

Is the Library of Things the only thing that SHARE Oxford does?

No. We also run Repair Cafés. There is a separate FAQ page for the Repair Cafés (coming soon).

Where is the Oxford LoT?

The Oxford Library of Things is situated within Makespace Oxford, at the corner of Hayfield Road and Aristotle Lane in Walton Manor. Its address is 1 Aristotle Lane, OX2 6TP.

If you need to come by car, there is parking for people visiting the LoT. Note: approach from the north (Hayfield Road) as there is no access to the parking from Kingston Road or Aristotle Lane itself.

See also the Contact page.

When is the Oxford LoT open?

The Library is currently open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-7pm, and on Saturdays from 1-5pm. We are hoping to extend these opening hours in due course. 

However, we want to try and be flexible, so if these times are impossible for you, please email libraryofthings@shareoxford.org or call 07410 942204 to see if we can be there at other times.

Who runs the Library of Things? 

SHARE Oxford, a Library of Things, is independent and is run entirely by volunteers. It is a member of CAG Oxfordshire. There is a volunteer Project Coordinator and other volunteers perform a variety of tasks that suit them and that the project needs. The group of volunteers is open – new volunteers are welcome; we meet as a group approximately monthly.

Can I volunteer with the Oxford LoT?

We welcome new volunteers. Please see our Volunteer page.

Where do you get the things from?

The great majority of the items in the Library have been donated by kind individuals or organisations. A small number we have bought in charity shops or acquired at Swapshops. Some items are on loan from their owners who are allowing us to have them in our catalogue, and you potentially to borrow them, while retaining ultimate ownership.

Do you need more things?

We are always trying to extend the range of what we can offer, so please do ask us if we would like an item that you are willing to offer to us. However, we do not aspire to meet all possible borrowing needs and there is also a limit to the space we have to store things. If you can offer us a better quality item than one on the inventory, or one in better condition, that would always be helpful – to us and to those who borrow from us.

We have a list of items that we know we are hoping to acquire at www.shareoxford.org/donate. If you have suggestions of other items that you think we should consider having, please let us know.

Do you accept donations?

Money: Yes we do. We are always happy to accept financial donations as the expenses of the Library, though not great, still need to be covered – see ‘Why do I have to pay to borrow things?’ below.

Things for the Library: see ‘Do you need more things?’ above.

What can I do to support the Oxford LoT?

Become a member. You can borrow. You can volunteer in many ways. You can donate money or ‘things’. You can spread the word about the Library: sign up for our newsletter (for all key updates), read and follow our blog (smaller snippets), follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Maybe you can find us sources of funding or suggest ways to extend the reach of the Library. 

How else can I support your aims of reducing waste and consumption?

We are in favour of attempts to waste less, or move towards “zero waste”. Beyond using the Library you can support our mission in your own life by making efforts to consume fewer things and waste less. Here are some ideas:

* share more things with neighbours/ friends/family * be more mindful about what you really need to buy * buy second-hand and use Freegle * buy good-quality things that last longer * extend the life of your things by repairing them (e.g. at our Repair Cafés) * don’t throw away your unwanted things if they could be re-used or re-purposed (try selling them, giving to us or to charity shops, giving away on Freegle, to Orinoco, etc) *

You might encourage your workplace or other organisations you’re involved with to adopt some of these ideas as well.

Can you help me set up a Library of Things where I live? 

We have talked to a number of people from across the country who want to set up their own Library of Things. Please get in touch and we’ll help if we can. 


About money

Why do I have to pay to borrow things? (Why isn’t it free like a book library?)

Public book libraries are free at the point of borrowing but they are paid for in your Council tax. The Library of Things needs to cover its expenses: rent, repairs, spare parts, consumables, replacements, etc.

How do you set your prices?

We aim for all of our prices to be affordable. When setting prices we take into consideration the replacement cost, what an item might cost you to buy, what it might cost you to borrow commercially (for those items that can be borrowed commercially), how often we might need to repair or maintain it, and our need to have enough income in aggregate to be able to continue the Library – as well as to grow it; we have many plans.

If you think we are charging too much, or too little, please do let us know and we will consider whether to adjust the price; remember, we are still quite new and still learning. Each catalogue entry has a link to enable you to put in a comment on the pricing of that item; please do use it.

How do I pay for my items?

You pay when you come to collect your item. The online catalogue has an integrated payment system (you will use this if you make a donation when you sign up or take out annual or monthly membership); you can also use this to pay for your loans. We also take cash, and have a clever gadget that will allow you to pay with a credit or debit card, contactless, or with your phone.

How do you use the money from borrowing? 

See above, ‘Why do I have to pay to borrow things?’


About borrowing

Do I need to join the Library? 

If you want to borrow anything, you must join. Go to www.shareoxford.org/membership to see the details and follow the links. The registration process takes only a couple of minutes. (Note: our catalogue and membership program is GDPR-compliant.) You can join as a ‘pay-as-you-go’ member (with or without a voluntary donation), or can become a monthly or annual member which brings some benefits.

How do I reserve an item?

Go to www.shareoxford.org/borrowing and follow the link. Use the Search bar or the Categories to find out if we have what you want and whether it is available when you want it. Choose the item, Reserve it, then go to the Cart to confirm the reservation.

How many things can I borrow at one time?

There is no set limit to how many items you may borrow at one time, but we’ll probably question you if you reserve a lot.

Do I need to bring anything with me when I borrow items?

The first time you borrow from the Library you will need to bring proof of who you are and of your address.

How long can I borrow things for?

The loan period for most items is seven days but you can reserve and borrow for longer, but it will cost more. 

Exceptions to the 7-day norm are the kind of items that in our estimation are generally only needed for a shorter period – and are generally more expensive – such as the cargo bike, the carpet cleaner, the pressure washers, the gazebos and so on. You will see the specified borrowing period (and the charge) on their entry in the catalogue.

Can I borrow things for an entire university term?

This is not currently in the working model of the Oxford Library of Things. We do not currently have the kind of things that a student might want to have for a whole term.

What if I can’t return my item on time?

We do like things to come back into the Library on or before they are due back; they may be reserved by someone else. If it’s not reserved, you can extend your loan period by renewing it online, or asking us to renew it for you. Technically if you simply fail to return your item on time there is a daily overdue charge of double the daily loan rate (eg, an item that costs £10 for seven days, will incur a daily charge of £2.86, reaching £20 after a week). However we know that things go wrong, or unexpected things occur and we try to be reasonable; please let us know if you are having trouble getting it back to the Library on time and we will discuss the options.

Will you show me how to use my item?

Please tell the Librarian on duty if you are unsure how to use your item, but we will generally ask if you know how to use it. (We may check with you that the item you have chosen is the right one and will actually do what you want it to do.) Items that need instructions generally have them attached to their entry on the catalogue. In some cases we have hard copies too, or instead. Of course there are many videos online that show or give guidance about many items and processes. In due course we intend to look for ones we think are good, so please do let us know if you find useful or helpful ones.

Does it come with everything I need to use it (consumables etc.)?

In some cases yes, in others not. The entry on the catalogue should tell you. We can advise you on what you will need. We will always try to be helpful if we can, eg with drill bits and so on and may ask you to pay a bit extra for them. In other cases you may want to also borrow items such as goggles.

Is this thing guaranteed to work?

All electrical items are PAT-tested before they go out. In addition, as far as possible we test items to see that they work before they ‘go live’ on the catalogue. We loan all items in good faith believing that they work as intended. That said, things do sometimes fail, we sometimes may not spot an imperfection, and so on. In this case we would of course apologise and refund what you have paid.

What happens if the item breaks while I’ve borrowed it?

That depends. Did you misuse it, or even abuse it?  We ask you to be straight with us about the conditions under which something breaks and will discuss the situation with you. 

We aim to have an approximate replacement cost of each item on its entry in the catalogue and will discuss with you whether it is right that you should pay some or all of that replacement cost. Remember, SHARE Oxford is a community action group, not a commercial rental company, and start the conversation from there.