Interview: Buy Nowt, the LS6 ‘Library of Things’
How many times have you spent far more than you can really afford on an Otley Run costume, for it to never be worn again? Or lost some of your housing deposit to a carpet stain you don’t have the time or money to properly clean?
These are some of the problems that Jed Aitchison set out to solve when he set up ‘Buy Nowt LS6’; a service that would not just save people money, but also reduce the enormous amount of needless purchases that are made, and subsequently disregarded, in our local area every year.
Since first opening its doors in the Headingley Methodist Church 8 weeks ago, the Buy Nowt ‘Library of Things’ has been equipping our local area with a huge array of useful stuff, at a fraction of the price that would usually have to be paid for it.
The idea behind it is simple. “It’s just like a library,” Jed tells me, “but instead of borrowing books, you borrow the kinds of things you use infrequently, but would normally have to spend decent money on to buy”.
“Take a power drill, for example. It’s typically only used for about 13 minutes in its lifetime, which is a huge waste of time, resources and space. The Library is a way of lending these kinds of things to people on a temporary basis. Things you want to try but don’t have the space for, can’t afford, or simply don’t want to buy.”
The really exciting about the Library is that it helps to tackle a number of the most pressing problems currently facing our local communities, in a oner. The LS6 Library adds its name to a list of about 10 others currently in operation in cities across the UK, however, Jed explains that the wide-ranging benefits of the concept mean that many more are currently being planned and crowdfunded elsewhere too:
“The world has several problems, one of which is climate change. Then there is the problem of inequality and material poverty, as well as the lack of space in people’s homes by virtue of the housing crisis.”
“The library addresses all those problems at once. Everyone’s trying to get towards a zero-waste circular economy at the moment, and I think that’s why there’s such a movement towards it. To me it’s a no-brainer.”
The Library is home to over 500 items ranging from power drills to pasta makers, board games, tents, suitcases and even a fondue machine. By virtue of the wide range of things it provides, the Library is used by all ages, demographics and community groups in the local LS6 area. However, Jed is particularly passionate about the opportunities the Library can provide to make the lives of us as students infinitely easier:
“Students shouldn’t have to buy things for a house they’re going to move out of within a year. Why should students have to buy a carpet-cleaner at the end of the year when they can borrow one from us instead. Why should they have to buy camping stuff if they want to go to music festivals or air mattresses if they want friends to stay over?”
“You really shouldn’t have to accumulate all this stuff, just to move back out again. That to me is why the student body should really be using what we’ve got here.”
We discuss the vicious cycle of buying and dumping that plagues our student area – particularly at the end of the year, when the streets of Hyde Park are littered with all the things that students don’t want to hold onto. Jed thinks the root of this problem is that students often don’t have the ‘time or the know-how to get rid of things more elegantly.’ He hopes that the Library can offer a better solution; whereby we can drop off our microwaves, clothes horses and cutlery in July, for the Library to then redistribute them again to a new home in September.
“Students could give me, say £5, at the start of the year for a cutlery kit, and then I could offer them some of that £5 back if they return it to me again at the end of the year. That way people are incentivized to make things last too.”
“Capitalism can be great, but it’s very predicated on ‘you buy it, you use it, you throw it away’. This way, we’re really trying to move towards a more sustainable, circular economy.”
The benefits of the Library are not just practical, but fun too. Jed tells me that they already have a disco ball, board games and fairy lights, and have just got funding for a pizza oven – all of which could be easily borrowed for things like society events or house parties. They also have a small costume section, which Jed is eager to expand:
“The amount of random costumes that must exist in the Hyde Park/Headingley area is insane. There might be ad hoc or informal swaps going on but there’s no formal exchange process yet – which is something we really want to establish.”
Jed is also keen to stress the many opportunities the Library can offer for students interested in volunteering to help out their local community, and gain valuable CV-enhancing skills in the process:
“It’s such a good way of getting experience and there’s some really cool stuff that we can teach people. Students can develop their skills in customer interaction and get involved with the green economy at the same time.”
As an entirely volunteer-run organisation, the Library is currently open twice a week, on Fridays and Saturdays. However, Jed and the team are not short of exciting plans for the Library’s development and expansion:
“We’re always looking for graphic designers, or people that can help us with web development, accountancy, or even DIY; to repair some of the stuff we have that’s broken.”
“We’ve also got a 3D printer, but we don’t currently have the time or financial resources to properly make use of it. We want to be able to lend the service of the printer, so people can send a file to us, we can print it out, and they can pick it up later. So there’s some exciting potential to help out there too.”
Ultimately, Jed says, the Library is all about making our lives in the LS6 area cheaper, more fun and more sustainable. His passion for the cause is infectious, and the vision he has for the future of the Library inspiring:
“We really just want people to use the library and for more people to know about it. Come down, borrow something you like the look of, donate or volunteer. And please, please give in your Otley Run costumes!”
Buy Nowt LS6 is open Fridays 4pm – 6pm and Saturdays 1pm – 4pm at 1 Chapel Street, just off Headingley High Street.
Header Image Credit: Buy Nowt