5 June 2023

Why buy and store it all when you can just Make-Do?

| Dione David
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woman at goods library service

Alanna Linn has been a volunteer at the Make-Do Library of Things since its inception in 2019. Photo: Dione David.

Anyone with a garage or shed has them – those items that come out once or twice a year to serve a very useful purpose, and spend the remaining 360-plus days taking up space.

But there’s one garage in Coledale that stores uniquely these kinds of items and yet, does not have this problem.

Its walls are lined with gardening tools, leaf blowers, lawnmowers in duplicate, not one but multiple fold-up gazebos, trestle tables and sewing machines, an ice-cream maker, a food dehydrator, chocolate fountains, cake stands, dog clippers, hedge trimmers, a large-scale movie projector and even a set of sumo suits.

This is the Make-Do Library of Things and for $80 a year or $22 a quarter, its roller door is wide open to you.

woman at goods library

Make-Do has more than 200 inventory items that members can borrow as often as needed. Photo: Dione David.

Established in 2019 by a handful of passionate community members, Make-Do is run entirely by volunteers – but it’s no two-bit enterprise.

One of a network of libraries worldwide, Make-Do is an incorporated association and a registered not-for-profit.

Its members reserve items from the carefully catalogued and barcoded inventory on the website before picking them up from the meticulously organised garage at the rear of Coledale Community Hall.

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But Make-Do is a lot more than a collection of things. It’s an answer to the community’s storage woes and a refuge for useful donated items that might otherwise end up in landfills.

According to volunteer Alanna Linn, it’s also a sort of circular economy hub for people who have come to the liberating realisation that they don’t necessarily need to own an item in order to use it.

“If you think about all the garages and sheds, and how everyone has all of these things individually shoved in theirs, for use once in a blue moon, this is so much more sensible,” she says.

“Instead of buying it all, storing it all, you can just keep it right here and it’s there whenever you need it.”

Make-Do houses more than 200 items and is busiest in summer owing in large part to the library’s impressive inventory of party wares, which includes everything from plastic crockery to decorations and lawn games.

At its pre-pandemic heights, Make-Do had more than 150 members on a steeply climbing trajectory. They haemorrhaged numbers following two lockdown-induced closures, but there are plans to get it back on track.

Currently, eight volunteers run the show, manning the garage week in, week out on Saturdays from 9 am to 12 pm.

“We used to be open Thursdays and Saturdays but we’ve dropped that back while we slowly rebuild our numbers back up. We’ll get there,” Alanna says.

“We plan to run more socials, and get community events like sewing workshops happening, to get the word back out there. Because we know from experience that once people start using the service, they wonder where it’s been all their life.

“We have a member who donated heaps of his garden tools and comes and borrows his own stuff almost every Saturday. It’s like storage for him.”

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Owing in no small part to the support of the South Coast Writers Centre, which runs the Coledale Community Hall on behalf of Wollongong City Council and rents the garage to Make-Do, the library is financially stable.

As a young working mum, Alanna acknowledges the work ahead for the time-poor but passionate volunteers looking to build Make-Do into the thriving hub it could be.

But she says it’s worth it for the benefits to the community, which are reflected in its volunteer base.

“One of the interesting things about Make-Do is how varied people’s motivations are for getting involved,” she says.

“We had a member who was an economist and he used to say it was simply the most efficient way for people to use things.

“I am driven by the environmental benefits. And there are a few of us who just really enjoy the community connection. And it is just a really lovely community.”

For more information, visit Coledale’s Make-Do Library of Things.

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