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Bishop's Stortford's Library of Things will really be something to shout about

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Why buy when you can borrow? This is the idea at the heart of a new community project in Bishop’s Stortford to give residents the chance to hire a variety of tools, technology and gadgets.

Bringing a Library of Things to Stortford was the brainchild of Nick Crofts, the day service organiser at Bishop’s House, the centre in Windhill for adults with physical or learning disabilities and for older people with dementia.

Bishop’s House has an unused garage-sized storage building. Nick was inspired to transform the space into a borrowing hub after reading an article in The Guardian about a successful similar community venture in Crystal Palace, south London.

Bishops House Day Centre, Windhill, Bishops Stortford. DSO Nick Crofts by the building that will house the Library of Things. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (14281561)
Bishops House Day Centre, Windhill, Bishops Stortford. DSO Nick Crofts by the building that will house the Library of Things. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (14281561)

“I thought, ‘Why not a day centre?’ We’re often trying to think of ways to get into the community.” he said.

Nick put out feelers on social media, introducing his concept, and asked people to suggest items for a wish list.

Gardening equipment and home improvement gear, such as lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, jet washers, carpet cleaners and ladders were popular suggestions.

Miscellaneous items such as bread makers, sewing machines, video projectors, gazebos and even children’s costumes were also recommended.

“I could tell it was going to be popular just from the reaction on Facebook and Nextdoor,” said Nick.

“People are super-happy to come and donate. Someone’s already donated a steam wallpaper stripper.”

Nick has secured a start-up grant from his employer, Hertfordshire County Council.

“They do a Dragons’ Den-type of thing where you can pitch your idea to them. I was given £1,500 to set it up,” he said.

“The exact way we’re going to do it hasn’t been worked out yet. Some items we might have a small charge for, but other items will hopefully be free – if you want to borrow a hammer, that’s free.”

Nick is considering implementing a small membership fee so that the library can pay for breakages, repairs or any other expenses.

“I think we’ll charge £1 to join because it just gives us that little bit of income,” he said.

“I’d love to get it set up by October, but I haven’t got a date yet.”

Library users will be able to browse through the available items online and make reservations in this way.

The day service users at Bishop’s House will be running the Library of Things once it is open, greeting borrowers, maintaining the stock, cleaning the equipment and teaching people how to use it.

The fact that they have disabilities is by the by, said Nick, and by no means the focus of the enterprise.

“We’re a social service – we’re here for anyone that needs it,” he said.

If you have any ideas that can be added to the Library of Things wish list, or if you have an item you would like to contribute, contact the team by calling 01992 588555.

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