A Scottish Network for Share and Repair: What does it all mean?

A Scottish Network for Share and Repair: What does it all mean?

Last year, during COP26, the Scottish Government made a very exciting announcement. They, alongside Zero Waste Scotland, were funding a national network to support the expansion of the number of sharing libraries (tool libraries, but also other things like musical instruments, toys, games, “things”) and repair cafes in a project led by Circular Communities Scotland. At ETL, we were giddy with excitement, but why? Well let us explain to you!

A much needed network 

As the first tool library in the UK, ETL has been approached by a ton of folks over the years. As we have developed our understanding of what we are doing, often by making mistakes initially, we have realised how valuable that information is to other groups on the same journey. We have passed on excess tools, visited and hosted other groups (Community Learning Exchange is a great small grant resource to cover the associated costs), taken phone calls and Zoomed with people all across the world, from Glasgow to Ghana, Aberdeen to Adelaide.


The idea of a network has long been talked about, and in October 2019 we met in London with a group of around a dozen organisations from across the UK for “Sharefest”. Plans were made to continue an annual meet up, but then we had a big pandemic-shaped spanner in the works… But that’s when we’ve proven to be resourceful, one of our core values!

Talking to others builds resilience

What did happen after ShareFest, was that established libraries embraced virtual opportunities and kept meeting up every few months online to support each other and talk through how each group was handling the pandemic. We shared policies and procedures and compared notes with how we were all keeping our members safe. This simple support network was invaluable throughout the pandemic.

At one of our regular meetings, we noticed a massive duplication of work, where we were all receiving the same emails from the same groups, asking the same questions, and then all responding. Who provides your insurance? How do you stay financially sustainable? How often do items don’t come back (surprisingly to many people, it’s very unusual: 3 times in 22,000 loans at ETL) and can we look at your policies and procedures?

ETL joined with Share Oxford and Plymouth’s Borrow Don’t Buy to offer regular opportunities for UK-based start-up libraries to quiz us for an hour in our regular “FAQ session”, which got things sorted quickly, and also built an initial feeling of being part of something in the new libraries.

Scottish interest rates at an all time high!

At this point, ETL became a member of Circular Communities Scotland and, as a new member, were invited to speak at a network meeting. This generated a lot of interest and at the next UK-wide FAQ session we ran, all participants were Scottish-based third sector organisations. After discussions with Circular Communities Scotland, they agreed to start facilitating Scottish sharing library specific meetings, beginning in late 2020. As well as the quarterly Circular Communities Scotland hosted meet ups, we followed up individually with nine of the twelve initial groups, and asked them to describe how they envisaged some sort of support network taking shape.

CCS and The Edinburgh Remakery

Through the interviews with these Scottish sharing libraries we were able to start sketching out what a network might look like and began working alongside Circular Communities Scotland, developing a proposal to the Scottish government and Zero Waste Scotland to build a recognised, funded and supported network to enable the sharing economy to thrive in Scotland. We approached the team at The Edinburgh Remakery about bringing their repair expertees to the table to support the repair side of the network, doing similar things to support the proliferation of the repair cafe model across the country. 

The idea of the Scottish Share & Repair network became clear 

To distill the expertise in the sector to reduce duplication of effort
To amplify the voices of its members
To look at opportunities for collective bargaining
– And finally, a network needs to network too!

Thankfully the Scottish government and ZWS could see the need, and the potential benefits of this network, and were happy to announce a £300k+ package of support at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. The particulars are being codesigned and there is now a member of staff, Emma Erwin, who has been appointed to lead the network (Emma@circularcommunities.scot).

(SEPTEMBER 2022: the network has now its own website: shareandrepair.scot with all the info you need!)


A Scottish Network for Share and Repair: What does it all mean? 1

What is a repair cafe?

So you know what a tool library is – it’s like a library, but with tools. Well, a repair cafe is a meeting space where people bring their stuff to get it fixed and have a cuppa while the repair happens. It’s not rocket science (although some of the boffins might actually be able to fix a rocket).

Models differ, but generally there are teams of volunteers with expertees in fixing different things, and they want to do the fixing WITH YOU, not for you. Common things fixed are electrical items, clothes, furniture, bikes, toys and much more. 

We are keen to start hosting repair cafe events at ETL this summer, so stay tuned to this space, and if you’re a fixer, or an organiser, then do get in touch.


A Scottish Network for Share and Repair: What does it all mean? 2

100 new sharing libraries and repair cafés for 2025

The target of the new network is to have over 100 sharing libraries and repair cafes in Scotland (currently 25) by the end of the three years of initial funding, cementing Scotland’s status as a trailblazer in the sharing economy.

This has the potential to give thousands more people access to equipment and skills to live in a more sustainable, circular way, whilst saving communities millions of pounds.

We can’t wait to meet you! 

Anyone can start a repair cafe or a sharing library. The point of this network is to support charities and social enterprises to add value to their community offering via a repair café or sharing library project, as well as to support local people and communities to start from scratch! 

These different groups have different lived experiences and different resources available to them, but both need help, and that’s what the network is there to provide.

With funding now in place to cover the time of organisations like ETL to help, everything comes back full circle, and it’s the reason why we are really excited about the Scottish Share & Repair Network. It is an opportunity to share our expertees and our passion, and to be part of comprehensive support for other groups in a much longer term way, adding what we know about sharing to what community-based organisations know about their community.

When people ask for more help, we can say “yes”!


I want to start…

…a sharing library!

First you can check out our dedicated page for a few hot takes on starting a tool library and our contact details if you are interested in a Community Learning Exchange visit.

  • If you are based in Scotland, you should reach out to Emma Erwin, the newly appointed Network Coordinator at emma@circularcommunities.scot and you’ll be invited to join any upcoming calls.
  • If you are based in Wales, we recommend you to reach out to Benthyg, the Welsh national network or sharing libraries.
  • If you are based in England or Northern Ireland, please feel free to get in touch and we will pass your details on to the UK Sharing network that is in its early stages. Whilst ETL is an active part of the UK group, the Scottish Share & Repair Network funding is Scotland specific. We are pushing for a similar body to cover other areas of the UK too (Scottish and Welsh libraries are welcome to connect with the UK group).

…a repair café!

  • If you are based in Scotland, you should also reach out to Emma Erwin, (Emma@circularcommunities.scot) and you’ll be invited to join any upcoming calls.
  • And do have a look at the Repair Cafe Network amazing online resource, this will support you to establish one anywhere in the world!