Where do you go if you want to rent books? The library. So why can’t the same principle be applied to baby carriers? Well, it can! What is a lending library? Quite simply, it is a place to rent baby carriers. Some people rent lots of different carriers in their pursuit of the right one before buying their own; others come because they can’t get the carrier they own to work for them. Others come because they have a special event such as a wedding or baptism. All I know is that there is no particular group of people who use my lending library – each session brings a different set of moms, dads and even grandparents. I set up the North East Sling Library in Durham, United Kingdom in July 2011 because there was a big gap. We had no babywearing groups local to us and the only carriers available to actually ‘look at’ were in mainstream high street shops, and Durham with its Norman Castle and Cathedral and cobbled streets is not very stroller friendly. It had taken me a long time to find carriers that worked for us; I wanted to be able to help others find the one right for them. Can anyone set up a lending library? How do you do it? Yes! A lending library can be as big or small as you want it to be. It can meet when and where you want it to. You choose how long to hire carriers out for, whether you want to charge hire fees, take deposits etc. It is your library; there are no set rules. I charge a small hire fee and ask for a refundable deposit equivalent to buying a replacement in the event of damage but other libraries charge a standard deposit or you pay to join the library and then can hire for free or reduced rates. The simple rule is do what works for you and your library. The NE Sling Library now has a stock of 60 carriers and it continues to grow. I reinvest the hire fees to buy more slings for the library and try to match user requests to the carriers we buy. We have carriers suitable for carrying premature babies to pre-schooler. When I first set the library up it did cost me a lot of money and we started with just 4 carriers from my own stash. I approached as many vendors and distributors as I could possibly think of; some donated slings, others offered reduced prices and some did not reply. In the early days the knock backs were hard because I knew there was no way I could finance it all by myself, but when someone says yes it makes it worth the time spent writing letters and emails. I made a website using a free service and I add all donations to a ‘thanks and contributors’ page on there. I also use Facebook and Twitter to interact with different people and groups. I also try to follow and ‘like’ them too and provide updates on when carriers have been hired. I also made the decision to invest in some business cards and postcards which I have on me whenever I am using a carrier and try to advertise wherever I can think of. I put posters up in children’s centers, day nurseries etc. I have found word of mouth plays a big part in getting people to come to the library. To run a lending library you do not need any specific training or insurance (I am in the UK) and this fits with the tradition of babywearing being passed from mom to daughter, person to person and so on. It is a skill which has been dying but which lending libraries and the internet are helping to continue. I decided that I wanted to also have some form of qualification so I decided to take a Babywearing Consultants Course. I trained with Trageschule UK and joined the British Association of Babywearing Instructors (BABI). There are other schools in the UK, Europe and the USA. I joined BABI as it allowed me to buy insurance through them but this is not necessary. Most lending libraries have their own Terms and Conditions which we ask users to say they have read and signed. It is also important to remember that you may need to declare your income for tax. We are not for profit but still needed to make a tax return. Since starting the North East Sling Library I have helped over 120 families to carry their children. It does take up a lot of my time but I do it because I enjoy it. I love “helping the North East Carry their babies big and small”. TOP TIPS.
- Get a website or Facebook page
- Like or follow other libraries and related pages
- Have a selection of carriers suitable for all age groups
- Remember you are mostly running as a hobby and that sometimes you have to say no. Your family come first and you physically can’t do everything for everybody.