December 20, 2022

Spotlight on Petha: From slate to sharing – how Petha is bringing Libraries of Things to north Wales.

Spotlight on Petha

From slate to sharing: How Petha is bringing Libraries of Things to Gwynedd

The Benthyg Cymru network stretches the length and breadth of Wales.  In the first of our ‘Spotlight' series of blogs, we’re looking at Petha in Gwynedd. A unique partnership between communities and the local authority.

Catrin Wager is Benthyg Cymru’s north Wales Development Officer and Petha Coordinator at Partneriaeth Ogwen and she tells us more about how this works and how they are using the library to share school uniforms.

Setting the scene

Up in the misty mountains of stunning Snowdonia, slate tips litter the landscape, bringing a rugged beauty of their own as they echo the sounds of industries past.  Recently recognized as World Heritage sites by UNESCO; the slate communities are towns and villages rich in language and culture, where 70% of the population speak Welsh, and hold a strong sense of community, with many of them pioneering grassroots sustainability.  

From community owned hydro schemes powering community owned vehicles, to community run cafes, cinemas and music venues, to community gardens, orchards and food sharing schemes, these slate communities have come into the 21st Century learning to do things for themselves.  It is within this landscape that Petha (Welsh for Things) was born – a library of things that spans three of these unique slate communities: Dyffryn Ogwen, Dyffryn Nantlle and Bro FFestiniog.  

Who’s Involved?

Petha is born from a unique partnership of community enterprises called Dolan, working in partnership with the Local Authority, and will be the first Libraries of Things in Wales to be housed within public, local authority owned libraries.  But the project isn't led by the LA; instead, it is led by local community partners within each of the communities.  

As Catrin Wager, Petha Co-Ordinator explains

‘It's the perfect partnership: housing the project in a public library means we have regular opening hours, and there are staff who can take responsibility for the checking in and out of items, but because it is delivered by the community partners at local level it brings diversity and local flavour that would be lost if it was simply a Local Authority project. It also builds on the original ethos of libraries; to share assets and resources, making items accessible to all.’  

School Uniform Sharing

A project that highlights the benefits of this kind of partnership is the school uniform project that ran in Dyffryn Ogwen over the summer.  The seven schools in the community all collected unwanted school uniforms at the end of the academic year, and community locations including the library and leisure center became collection points over the summer.  These were collected in bins provided by Gwynedd Council, with labels made by a local volunteer in the community makerspace.  Around 25 volunteers washed and sorted uniforms over the summer and created around 200 packs of Uniform (the standard pack is 1 jumper with logo, and 3 polo shirts).  

There is a local community owned hydro which invests its profits back into projects that benefit the community via Elusen Ogwen (Ogwen charity) who funded bags and equipment for the project. The uniform packs could therefore be provided on long term loan (1 year) for free, and in a way that takes the stigma away from second hand uniforms.  There is no need to prove a need for free uniforms like you would in a uniform ‘bank’; they are simply a free resource that has been diverted from the waste stream and made available to everyone simply by booking the right size online and collecting from the local library.    

So far around 70 uniform packs have been borrowed, saving residents around £2,100 and an incredible 750kg – three quarters of a metric ton of carbon.

What’s next?

Opening a Library of Things with this model isn't all plain sailing as there can be a lot of bureaucracy in this type of partnership.  So far, Petha has opened one of the three branches on a trial basis and it is hoped the others can open soon. But, with over 150 members and over 150 loans since the trial began in mid-July, Catrin is confident that Petha will become part of the way of life in these communities ‘Community ownership and the sharing of our assets provides a solution for so many of the crises we are facing: environmental, economic and social.  By sharing assets, we create opportunities to come together, we create resilient communities, and we can take our future into our own hands.  Dyffryn Ogwen, Dyffryn Natlee and Bro FFestiniog are all places where the ethos of community is strong – I’m confident we can work together to make this happen and bring a brighter shared future for us all.’

The Network

Petha is just one of the projects that is part of the Benthyg Cymru Network. If you are interested in setting up your own library of things or are already running a library and just want to join the network, get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. We have quarterly network meetings where you can meet others to share knowledge and information as well as a toolkit and 1 to 1 support available.