A new library has opened in London today (July 1) stocked only with vinyl reports The Guardian.
The Vinyl Library, set up by two London based DJs Sophie Austin and Elly Rendall, is run by volunteers and will operate on a not-for-profit basis. Its stock is comprised of vinyl records donated by the public, with donations already having been made from as far away as New Orleans.
Speaking about the idea behind the venture, Austin told the paper: “We were DJing UK garage sets and we wanted to build up our vinyl collection. We didn’t have the budget to buy a whole new collections, there’s no vinyl in libraries any more and we have quite eclectic tastes so we thought: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a vinyl library?’
She continued: “People can share their knowledge with people who are new to vinyl[...] We like the idea of getting people tactile with a piece of vinyl and getting everyone connected to that again.”
The pair also plan to hold DJ lessons in the library, with a particular view to attracting female DJs to the library, and have said events like screening music documentaries could happen in the future.
The library is open from 11am-9pm Monday to Sunday and is based on Foulden Road in the Stoke Newington area of London. Joining up costs £1 with further charges applicable when borrowing up to a maximum of five records.
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Share the love: vinyl lending library opens in London
In an empty shop beside a luxury kitchen shop on a residential street in Stoke Newington, north London, Elly Rendall and Sophie Austin are dreaming of kickstarting a kind-hearted and impeccably behaved revolution. This unassuming space has opened as The Vinyl Library, a volunteer-run, non-profit, vinyl-only lending library stocked entirely with donations from the public. While many of their fellow twentysomethings spent the past four days caught up in Glastonbury festival, Rendall and Austin were sourcing tables, crates and shelves, and starting to turn an inspired pub-idea into reality.
"We were DJing UK garage sets," begins Austin, who until recently worked in advertising, "and we wanted to build up our vinyl collection. We didn't have the budget to buy a whole new collection, there's no vinyl in libraries any more and we have quite eclectic tastes, so we thought: 'Wouldn't it be great to have a vinyl library?'"
Canvassing opinion down the road in the bars of Dalston, they were greeted with instant enthusiasm for the idea. Which is when Rendall, who combines working as a teaching assistant with participating in community arts initiatives, realised The Vinyl Library could be more than an instant record collection. "The DJ scene was very male-dominated and everyone was very knowledgeable and it wasn't necessarily a sharing space," she says. "In record shops, you can feel a bit nervous about asking questions. So the library will be about creating a welcoming, open space. There's a library in Crofton Park [in south London] that was being shut down and it was taken over by pensioners, and it became their social space. There's people there playing games and there's always someone who will talk to you about the gardening book you're taking out, and we were inspired by that."
Thus the idea of a communal vinyl record collection tended by a co-operative of volunteers was born. "People can share their knowledge with people who are new to vinyl and lot of the kids that might come to us may never have touched vinyl before," Austin says. "We like the idea of getting people tactile with a piece of vinyl and getting everyone connected to that again." Rendall nods. "Soulseek is soulless. You just take tunes and you don't know the history behind them, whereas actually holding something, seeing the artwork, looking at the back, reading the dates, is wonderful."
Since Rendall and Austin announced the scheme , The Vinyl Library's Facebook page has gained more than 2,000 members and they have been inundated with offers of donations. "Someone from New Orleans is sending us three records, which is amazing," says Rendall. "The biggest donation so far has been 300 records. Most donations are over 50. I think a lot of it is potentially partners at home saying 'get those records out of the house … now!'"
"The great thing about the library is that people can house their records here," Austin adds. "They don't need to keep them at home, and they've got access to them all the time. So you don't feel like you're giving them up forever."
Joining The Vinyl Library will cost a pound, and there will be a further rental charge for taking out up to a maximum of five records. All of which sounds perfectly reasonable, until you broach the tricky subject of what happens when someone doesn't return their records. "We're hoping that because people will feel that it's a shared collection that they'll respect it," says Rendall. "If someone does take those five records, they'll have lost out because they could have a whole collection at their feet but they've just got away with five records."
Austin says they're still working out the details of exactly how the library will work. To cover rental costs in the first month, they're sharing the shop space with a clothing and jewellery stall, and then they're hoping to find funding. They say they need help with cataloguing, building shelving and running the library, and when I spoke to them days before opening, they still hadn't decided how much to charge for borrowing a record. But they're certainly not short of ideas. They're planning to run DJing lessons, with a particular focus on attracting female DJs. They talk about screening music documentaries in the evening, and about the library becoming a social hub. And most of all, they're excited by the thought that this could be the first of many vinyl libraries across the country.
"We'll be the guinea pigs," Rendall says. "Finding out if people will run off with records or if there's a way to stop that. Working out how much to charge for rental. We don't have the answers yet because it's new and there's nothing to base it on. But we've already had a guy get in touch from Birmingham saying he wants to do this. And once the pattern is set, people in different places can run their own and we'll help them set it up. Hopefully it'll work. It's exciting."
It's a test of human decency, almost.
"Exactly," nods Austin.
Let's see if everyone is up to it.
"I'm sure they will be. I've got faith."
The Vinyl Library is now open at Unit 1, Foulden Road, London N16 7UU, from 11am-9pm, Monday-Sunday