A new kind of library, of things
Written by Jess
[Benthyg is] A place where you can borrow things you need but don't own, and donate things you own but don't need, and a place where people meet to share knowledge and skills with their communities. benthyg.org/about
We visited Cardiff’s first Library of Things; Benthyg.
In this post, we’ll tell you what we learned about them and how you can borrow too.
If you aren’t local to Cardiff, then here are two directories of the UK’s Library of Things (and Repair Café’s). You might have one near you.
All about Benthyg
We met Becky and Jane and have since spoken with Ella and Cerys, all putting in their time to make it work around their jobs and families.
Benthyg, was started in 2017, after the community tried to save the old library in Rumney, Cardiff. In the end, the building was bought by the community, to share the space for various community projects.
Becky had the idea about Benthyg, she didn’t want to see the local library go. The first plan was to make it a toy library. Soon after, she discovered Tool Libraries. In particular, ‘Share’, the Library of Things in Frome; which is doing amazing things in their community.
Around the same time, Ella moved to Cardiff. She had been involved with the Library of Things in London and was keen to find another one when she moved.
The team got together. The hard work began.
Our first impressions
A local community space, which although might not be shiny and new, has heart and soul.
The lasting impression was how friendly and welcoming Becky and Jane were.
We had Wilson with us, and we were asking them loads of questions but they were more than happy to help.
Everything is stored neatly on shelves and labelled in categories and with a catalogue ID. You can browse this area in person, or you can see what they have online.
We were impressed by the quality of the items and how well organised everything looked. It’s really nice to see it all and know that this stuff is being borrowed, returned and borrowed again.
They had more categories than we expected, so if you’re looking for something random that you think you won’t find, then we’d say just have a look and see.
Everything they have has been donated. They started by having donation parties. Then the borrower quite often returns the favour and donate items they no longer need, passing on good Benthyg karma.
What can you borrow
Here are some examples of what you can borrow and for how much per week:
Reserve items online
You can register on Benthyg’s website so you can reserve items online. It’s easy to use, and the platform means staff save time organising; who is borrowing what and when.
Registration is super easy; you can do it online or in the library. It took me less than 2 minutes on my mobile.
Once registered you can:
- check availability for the item and dates that you need it
- reserve the item you’d like to borrow
- then you go in and collect it when you’re ready (current COVID measures are in place).
Borrowing is better
It makes so much sense to borrow items that you might otherwise buy, use once, then keep in a drawer or cupboard at home gathering dust.
The products that people no longer need are being used again and again. This, like secondhand shopping, has a huge impact on the environment. It slashes demand for new things, so it is avoiding all the nasty carbon footprints left behind by the production of new stuff.
Building stronger communities
You don’t even need to pay with money if you can’t afford it, they also accept time credits or skill sharing. So borrowing is available to everyone.
And by supporting your local library of things, you are enabling the project to be a place where people meet to share knowledge & skills and build stronger more resilient communities.
Becky told us that she and the team have put in a lot of effort into getting the project to where it is today, and it shows.
Future plans for Benthyg
Becky and Jane told us about how they hope to use their experiences of setting up to support others in setting up more Benthyg’s all over Wales. They offer assistance in the process, sharing insurance and other tools and platforms.
They have grand plans to see a Benthyg in every community, so everyone can have access to borrowing things that they don’t need to buy.
Members will be able to plan trips to the other side of the country, knowing they could borrow things when they arrive. Maybe you would need a pram & high chair while visiting family in North Wales, you’d be able to borrow them up there!
Update for September 2020: Benthyg has recently announced their next venue opening in Splott Old Library, Cardiff.
Repair Café, a crucial relationship
Working with Repair Café means the items that get donated can be properly checked and fixed if not working.
And when the inevitable breakages happen, they can get the item back on the shelf in working order, for the next person to use.
How can you help
You can donate items! Have a look around at home and see what you’ve got that you don’t need anymore. If it’s useful and in good condition, then fill in their donation form. They would love you to drop off your unneeded things.
You can also donate your time, if you have any spare then help them out with the running of Benthyg. Do you have a skill? Then get involved and share it with them and the local community.
Set up your own Benthyg location. Can you see this working in your local area, do you have the drive and passion to make it happen? They would love to hear from you!
How to find Benthyg
19 Woodland Pl, Penarth CF64 2EX
Check their opening times on their contact page
Browse Benthyg’s things now
You can read more about Library of Things and alternatives to buying new in Davey’s blog post Green alternatives to buying new Part 1