Share Shed – a Library of Things

I am pleased to present my interview with Nicole Bray, the co-founder of Share Shed!

Share Shed is a Brisbane-based Library of Things where members can borrow all sorts of useful items for a modest membership fee. Whether you want to use a lawn mower, a bread maker, a tennis racquet or a disco ball, the Share Shed has so much to choose from!

They do this because they truly believe that borrowing items rather than buying them is better for the planet, better for our wallets and better for our communities.

Schools and clubs can benefit from Share Shed, plus Nicole is on a mission to encourage people all around Australia to start Share Sheds in their own communities!




Speaker Key:

MW Mandy Weidmann

NB Nicole Bray


MW It’s Mandy Weidmann, The Fundraising Whisperer. Today we’re going to be meeting Nicole from the Share Shed. Look, Share Shed [points at sign]. Hey, Nicole.

NB Hi, how are things going?

MW Hey, Nicole, thank you for having me.

NB Thanks for coming.

MW I’ve been following the Share Shed’s journey since it started, it’s very exciting. I guess, tell me generally about what the Share Shed is.

NB Sure. Well, as you can see behind me we’ve got lots of cool stuff and we’re a library of things, so you’re borrowing useful items. The reason that’s a great idea is it means that we don’t all have to buy the same thing, we don’t all have to maintain our lawnmower, and it’s really great for the environment because the less things that we all own means less has to be made, less carbon emissions.

More importantly, it’s really cool because you get to know people in your community. Since we started we’ve got over 25 volunteers, and they’ve met all the other members, so you’re like, oh, it’s Mark on a Saturday, that’s great. You get to know people and you’re all custodians of an item, I guess. So it’s like, oh, we’ve had people fix things up for the next person who they don’t know, it’s just really nice. I guess, yes, that’s the idea behind it is it’s better for the planet, better for your wallet and better for our community, so come on in.

MW Cool, yay. So this is some of the stuff. I know this is the temporary digs here, but you will move to slightly larger digs, but basically, I guess, a lot of that stuff is donated.

NB Yes, absolutely. I’d say upwards of 85%, 90% of the catalogue has been donated. We’ve got lots of great categories, as you can see there. We’ve got board games coming out of our ears and puzzles, if you’re into puzzles, we have heaps to keep you going.

MW Yes, cool.

NB One of the things that we like to do is tell people about all the outdoor equipment that we’ve got as well. Our motto is do more own less and we really think it captures what we’re trying to do. Right now we’re looking at the party supply section and catering section. We’ve got urns, we’ve got 16 different saucers.

MW So your next party is sorted.

NB Absolutely. We’ve got the PA system, we’ve got four disco balls, party lights, everything you might need. Punch bowl set, which is actually really popular. Cocktail shakers, all that kind of stuff, that’s only an every now and then thing, but it’s really fun when you have a party, so why would you go and buy it if you’re just going to use it for a night, so come and get I from us instead.

MW Cool, that’s awesome. Then also because you charge a nominal membership, which is $80 a year for an individual.

NB And $150 for an organisation, yes. The way that works is once you become a member, you can borrow everything in the shed, it’s five items a week, and then if no one else has reserved it for the following week you can have it for two weeks. If you’re going camping or something like that, that’s always good to know. I guess with an organisation membership, the cool thing about that is if you’re having a big fundraiser, so you would not believe how popular the cake stands are, because you can do a bake sale, we do it ourselves, we do it at Bunnings. We have a little side store, a bit of a hustle with the cakes so that works really well and it means you can get so many things, extra tables. We’ve got a really good stand that you can advertise, cupcakes $2, whatever.

MW Oh, cute.

NB So for an organisation that’s a little bit cash strapped, we know that feeling as well, it’s a really worthwhile thing.

MW A P&C can join for $150, and then through the year a lot of this stuff can just be borrowed, they don’t have to worry about storing it, it’s all here.

NB They can book it out on advance as well on the website, so if you know that you’ve got an event coming up just go on and pick out all the things.  Organisations are allowed to have ten items at a time instead of five, and you can have a couple of people listed on there, so maybe there’s three committee members that are willing to be the people to come and collect from Share Shed.

MW And you’re saying that for school fetes you have a special thing?

NB Yes. We try to support the local area, so last year we did Moorooka State School’s fete, which went really well. It was really cool, they hadn’t had one for a while. What we did was we opened up the shed and said you can take whatever you like to for the day, so tables, marquees, water drinkers, all that kind of stuff. Then we just provided some volunteer assistance, so we put on our Share Shed shirts and we just popped in. I did some fairy floss and I did the ice crusher thing that was really fun for us. It just means we get to talk about Share Shed with people.

Instead of having our own information booth, which can sometimes be a big drama in itself, we got to just help them out, give them some extra labour and we had a good time. We’re doing that again for St Pius X, they have their school fete coming up this year. We tend to do one or two a year, just depending on our volunteers, but if that’s something that your school would like to do let us know.

MW So you have cool things, like, I mean, there’s a fairy floss machine. Oh, exciting, cool.

NB What else do we have that’s cool? I guess we’ve got heaps of camping gear just behind you there. We’ve got big tents, small tents, in between tents. We’ve also got telescopes, anything that’s creative. We’re getting a lot bigger craft section. We’ve got keyboards, guitars, ukulele, but also roof rack and things, which are really important if you want to borrow the kayaks. We’ve got three kayaks out the back. We’ve also got tables and chairs, so 18 little metal stools and 23 normal chairs, I guess, for throwing a party, that’s really important. Also art and craft things, you can have a look on our website, it’s broken into categories.

MW Yes, you do have some really cool and unusual things.

NB Yes.

MW Brilliant. And your staff are volunteers?

NB Absolutely, 120%, all of us are volunteers. I think that’s been really nice. Also finding out who in your community has got what skills. I think the thing about a library of things is you can have everyone, from someone who’s just graduated with a librarian degree, I didn’t even know they existed, but there you go, to somebody who has been a handyman for 40 years and just loves fixing up things, so everywhere in between. We’ve got people who’ve worked with volunteers before. Myself, I’m more of a marketing business person, but that has its place, so it’s been really nice to see who the mission resonates with, and it’s really simple, we always have people saying, it’s such a great idea. Like, yes, it is.

Everyone, whether it’s because they’re downsizing and they just want somewhere to give their stuff that they know it’s going to get used, whether it’s they can’t afford to buy kayaks, to take their kids camping or whatever and do that, it makes sense. It’s good for students. If you’re an international student and you have to suddenly have to mow a backyard, are you really going and buy a lawnmower and sell it next year when you leave? No, you just come and borrow it from us. There’s so many good reasons to use it and I think that’s been the most inspiring thing is, oh, that’s another good reason to have a Share Shed.

MW And you are trying to encourage other people to start their own community Share Sheds?

NB Yes, I’ve actually had a couple of webinars now. We got so many enquiries.

We opened in September 2017, which seems like such a long time ago, but really not that long. When that went on TV we had an inundation of, well, can we start one here, there and everywhere, including in Perth, but what we’re trying to do is teach people how to do it themselves, because as much as we’d like to run Share Sheds everywhere, it’s more powerful when it comes from your own community. Tonight at seven o’ clock there’s a webinar, every last Wednesday of the month I run them, so if you want to check them out on our website, there will be an event there. It’s is $30, only because I don’t get paid for anything else I do, so sometimes in my spare time it’s good to acknowledge that I kind of know what I’m talking about, but it gives you a chance to ask all the questions.

I give you heaps of resources. Mandy, if you want to come over here I’ll show you what I’m talking about. So everything from the librarian manuals, so teaching people how to be great librarians. Some of the signage that we have and why, things like the mower service records, you know like all these little things that you learn, but it’s also nice if someone goes here, here’s some templates and you can adjust them for your own libraries use, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

MW That’s our motto, and that’s again why I was drawn to your mission, because ours is a different kind of thing, ours, we share resources so people don’t have to create them all the time.

NB All your ideas, and I’m going to totally have a look at some of those because we need to fundraise!

MW So you said you’re also the grants person?

NB Yes. So on our exact team there’s five of us, actually, hopefully there will be six or seven soon, but one of the positions is grants officer. I think for any not for profit it’s really important to have someone who is keen to take on that role, and Chris has done an absolutely fantastic job, we couldn’t have asked for a better person.  I have to say, if she’s watching, that she’s not just a grants officer, she’s more than a grants officer, I know, but she does such a great job.

Most of the things have been donated, but a lot of the bigger ticket items that our members want, so we have a wish list, so if you really want a steam cleaner or whatever, you put it on the wish list and then we’ll try to make that happen for you. The big ticket item when we first opened was a carpet cleaner and we got one of those, it’s $3000 worth so it’s not going to be something you just go you and purchase. Having a grants officer, who not only knows which grants to apply for but how to write them, has been really invaluable.

MW Excellent. I guess, your hope for this is for more people to know about it, more people to donate stuff and for the word to spread?

NB Absolutely. I think when we started we got asked what’s your vision, we said worked domination, of course.

We’re getting there slowly, but I guess my vision for this shed is that it continues on and it doesn’t matter who the volunteers are or who is running it, it’s still going to be community run and it’s going to be a community resource. Me, personally, I’d love to help other people start, and because I’m so convinced, now that I’ve been involved in this one, that they are really necessary and they do lots of good getting people to realise that we can fight climate change together. Obviously, reducing carbon emissions through borrowing and getting to know your neighbours produces social sustainability, which is something that often gets forgotten about. Me, personally, I’d love to have one of these in every town in Australia, so if you want to start one let me know, but in terms of the vision, yes, more Share Sheds, please.

MW Thank you so much for your time, Nicole, and best of luck. I’ll certainly be spreading the word amongst the local P&Cs.

NB That would be great, thank you.