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Share Shed: a community library of things in Brisbane

multiple items displayed on shelves

By Juliano Oliveira

A library replete not with books, but with the most variety of items donated by the community. This idea already exists, and it has been shaping the concept of “doing more” since January 2017.

Share Shed introduces a “library of things model” in which members can borrow up to five articles a week from a catalogue where 90% of its content is free.

Located in Salisbury, Brisbane, Share Shed, a not-for-profit organisation, works with annual memberships of $80 – concession is $60. All the cash flow goes towards running the project or fixing and acquiring new items.

“90% of the catalogue is free to borrow, with a few more expensive and popular items attracting a small fee to help us maintain them and cover insurance costs. For example, the lawnmowers are $5 for a week, but that generally includes fuel too,” explains Nicole Bray, co-founder of Share Shed.

Most of the inventory is donated from generous members of the public. However, the organisation eventually buy useful new items. 

“For example, we purchased a commercial carpet cleaner worth $2500. It is $20 to borrow for the week, but we include soap, so it’s still very economical,” says Ms Bray.

“We prefer people to call or email about the items they want to donate before showing up, as we can’t take everything.”

Avoiding to pile undesirable items, Share Shed has a wishlist, a way of making sure they have what people want to use. Each month, ten products that have been wished by members and the public are listed.

“Our wishlist fairy, a real volunteer role, goes in search of donations from lots of different places. We are always blown away with how generous people are, and we love adding new things to the catalogue for everyone to enjoy. People can see what’s on the wishlist on our website.”

Step by Step

Share Shed is based on Tool Libraries and Libraries of Things, two ideas that have been around since the ’70s. Its popularity has increased since the turn of the 21st century.

“I finished my Master’s degree in Sustainability and Climate Policy in 2016, and I wanted a project to apply myself to that was practical and delivered tangible, climate-positive results,” says Ms Bray. 

“Share Shed fit the bill perfectly and continues to blow me away with how much positive climate action it has generated since we started.”

The beginning of the project was not easy. Nicole Bray and Sarah Pember, the other co-founder, experienced full of massive ups and downs, once they had to make up processes and roles as they went.

“Four years later, we’ve almost got it all worked out. We are 100% run by volunteers, so everything we do is time spent outside our working lives. This makes it challenging to get things done as fast as you would like, so it’s taught me patience whether I like it or not!”

Depending on the month, the organisation manage to have between 20 and 30 volunteers. At a certain point, they reached more than 140 members. Now, the objective is to obtain 200 by the middle of 2021.

“We are planning to run more workshops and Repair Cafes, solidify our working processes and then who knows? We have always wanted to have a Share Shed in each suburb, so let’s hope we can make it happen”, she says. 

Anyone interested can join the Share Sheds Australia Facebook group for more information.

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